June 29, 2012. Family Secrets. Movies reviewed: People Like Us, Take This Waltz

Posted in Canada, Cultural Mining, Drama, Family, Movies, Toronto, Uncategorized, US by CulturalMining.com on June 30, 2012

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies, for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, genre and mainstream movies, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Till death do us part they say, but it’s not always as simple as that. For, when it happens, parting is such sweet sorrow… This week I’m looking at two family dramas. One’s a Canadian movie about a Toronto woman who has to choose between staying with her stay-at-home husband or parting to live with the guy across the street; and an American movie about a man who finds out that his late father faced a similar choice many years earlier.

People Like Us
Dir: Alex Kurtzman

Sam (Chris Pine – Star Trek’s new Captain Kirk) is a wheeler-dealer sales exec in the rarified profession of commodity barter trading. But on the same day he makes a grave shipping error, and he also finds out his estranged, music exec father has died. So, under protest, he flies out to Los Angeles or the funeral. And he discovers he’s inherited a zippered dop kit, with 150K in cash, and a note – saying he has to find a woman and give her the money.

But he needs the money, hasn’t a moral bone in his body, and hates his father Gerry. No reason to do it. Gerry was a record company dude whose claim to fame was discovering Kajagoogoo. But Sam soon discovers this woman Frankie (Elizabeth Banks), in fact, is his sister. He gradually makes friends with  bartender, AA veteran, and single mom, without telling her who he is. And also becomes a sort of a mentor for the jaded Josh, her 11-going-on-65-year-old son. Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario) talks like a 65 year old blues singer, and is caught blowing up his school swimming pool.

It’s up to Sam to try to make things right again, even as his job is on the line, his girlfriend is fed up with his lies, and he has yet to accomplish anything worthwhile with his life.

Will Sam ever come clean as to why he’s hanging out with Frankie and Josh? Will he give them the money? Will Frankie stop bartending and pursue her dream — landscape architecture? Will Sam’s mean, bitter mom (Michelle Feiffer) — she’s not passive aggressive she’s active aggressive! – ever answer some of his questions? And will this confusing, hidden family ever be a single entity?

People Like Us is a surprisingly engaging movie, even though its story is nothing more than a typical Movie of the Week. The dialogue is witty, the acting is good, and the plot turns, though predictable, keep the story going. (And it even has a walk-on role for Mark Duplass as Frankie’s casual sex partner. That’s surely a record: three Duplass movies in 3 weeks, plus the DVD release of Jeff who Lives at Home.) This is a good movie if you like dysfunctional family dramas.

Take this Waltz
Wri/Dir: Sarah Polley

Margot and Lou (Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen) wake up each morning saying how much they love each other – so much s0 they’d gladly poke each other’s eyes out. Such love you seldom see. It’s a happy but boring relationship. They sleep in the same bed, and live and work beside each other in the same house in Parkdale, downtown Toronto… basically they’re together 24/7. He does cookbooks, she’s a freelance writer. And they get together with Lou’s loud extended family, including his sister recovering alcoholic Geraldine (Sarah Silverman).

But things start to change when Margot goes on a trip to a colonial village in Louisburg to write a pamphlet for Parks Canada. Watching a reenactment of a colonial punished for adultery, she meets a flirty, obnoxious guy named Daniel (Luke Kirby). Sparks fly. And when they’re back in Toronto, turns out the rickshaw driver and secret artist… lives right across the street from her.

What’s a lady to do? The right thing or the lustful thing?

Take This Waltz is a daring movie. It’s filled with some very funny scenes – like an aqua fitness class – and some images that will stick with you, like an amazing psychedelic ride at an amusement park on Toronto’s Centre Island to the tune of “Video Killed the Radio Star”. She also takes risks – like an extended nude scene with Michelle Williams and Sarah Silverman in a women’s shower room, that shows real bodies of all ages and types.

And it has countless, wonderful locations all around this city – Kensington Market, Lakeshore, the Royal Cinema… A beautiful view of Toronto. So I wanted to love this movie, her second picture, following her great debut Away From Her. But I just couldn’t. The last twenty minutes or so are just excruciatingly awful and completely incongruous with the rest of the movie.

It shifts from an uncomfortable marriage to an extended sequence – possibly a fantasy montage – of what happens to her once she makes her decision. I guess that’s there to tie up various loose ends, but it leaves the viewer scratching his head and squirming at this uncomfortable addition to a lackluster family drama.

There are lots of good reasons to see this movie, but I can’t say it worked.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that People Like Us is a “better” movie than Take this Waltz. Take This Waltz is a potentially great film that tried but failed, while People Like Us is an ordinary M.O.W.-style family drama with a clever script, likeable stars and a watchable, if unoriginal, plot. It was capably done and worked well. The thing is, I’ll long remember scenes from the failure, while I’ve already forgotten most of the one that worked.

Take this Waltz and People Like Us both open this weekend — as does Todd Solandz’s excellent Dark Horse — check your local listings; the ICFF Italian Contemporary Film Festival continues through this weekend, closing with the Toronto Premier of Woody Allen’s latest film, To Rome, With Love. Also check out the Toronto After Dark series on Wednesday nights at the Bloor, for lots of gore, shocks, found footage. Next show: July 11th.  And the very cool Japanese anime and cult movie fest called Shinsedai starts in mid-July this year.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM, with podcasts and complete reviews available on my web site CulturalMining.com.

Daniel Garber talks to Seema Biswas about her new film Patang (The Kite)

Posted in Canada, Cultural Mining, Drama, India, Movies, Mumblecore, Subtitles, Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on June 23, 2012

India’s superstar character actress Seema Biswas talks about a new, experimental movie from India called PATANG (The Kite) opening today in Toronto (June 22nd) at the Projection Booth.

Seema is famous in both South Asia and North America, for films like Water, the Bandit Queen, Cooking with Stella, Queens: Destiny of Dance, the upcoming Midnight’s Children, and many others.

In this feature interview, Seema tells a great story about an unusual experience she had with American border officials, her challenging roles, her opinion of “controversial” parts, her true character, her “Canadian connection”,  her work with Deepa Mehta, the difficulties in playing an Indian transsexual, her other roles, and more!

June 22, 2012. Square Pegs. Movies Reviewed: Your Sister’s Sister, Kryptonite!, Alps.

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies, for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, genre and mainstream movies, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Can square pegs fit into heart-shaped holes? This week I’m looking at three movies about odd-balls adjusting their lives to fit into new families and relationships. There’s an indie rom-com from Seattle about a middle-aged slacker caught between two beautiful women; an Italian drama about a bullied 9-year-old who explores 70’s hippie culture; and an experimental Greek film about people trying to temporarily replace the dead.

Your Sister’s Sister
Dir: Lynn Shelton

Jack, (Mark Duplass) is depressed, unemployed, single, and stuck in a bottomless pit of negativity following his brother’s death. So to cheer him up, his friend Iris (Emily Blunt) – who was also his late brother’s ex-girlfriend – offers him the use of her family cabin, off on some island in the Pacific North West.  But when he gets there, he sees an attractive woman inside, coming out of her shower. And after a clumsy confrontation involving a wooden paddle, Hannah, a lesbian who has just broken up with her long-time lover, gets into a drunken confessional with this stranger, Jack. He’s a lumpish, impulsive ne’erdowell; while Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a strikingly beautiful, but acid-tongued meat-is-murder vegan. Is there a spark there? Uh, oh… Sometimes things that happen in the night are best forgotten in the morning.

Who shows up but the next day but Iris – who it turns out is Hannah’s half-sister! She’s been through a series relationships with swooshy haired, skinny jeaned, rock- and-roll hipster boyfriends… but could she also harbour feelings of her own toward her platonic best friend Jack? All these new complications throw a wrench into their mutual relationships.

Your Sister’s Sister is a really good, extreme-low-key romantic comedy. It’s mainly about the characters, not the plot, with most of the dialogue improvised by the actors themselves. The three of them work very well together and Mark Duplass is everywhere! (He was in another low-budget, Seattle-based comedy, Safety Not Guaranteed, just last week. Anyway, this movie’s worth seeing if you’re looking for a Left-coast romcom.

Kryptonite!
Wri & Dir: Ivan Cotroneo  (I Am Love)

Peppino (Luigi Catani) is a 9-year- old school kid in Naples in the early 70’s. He wears glasses and that’s enough to get picked on by his schoolmates. When he plays soccer, he‘s stuck being the goalpost. So, aside from his father who works in a sewing machine shop, and his loving mother he turns to his eccentric uncle Gennaro (Vincenzo Nemolato) who thinks he’s Superman.

But things start to go wrong. His mom (Valeria Golino) discovers her husband is having an affair. Instead of making a scene, she collapses and becomes bed-written until sent to psychoanalysis. His dad shoos him away so he can spend time with his secret girlfriend. And Genarro is found dead, hit by a car. So, without a functional family, and to keep him out of trouble, he’s lent out to his many uncles and aunts. They’re Neapolitan hippies, given to wearikng eye makeup and dancing to Ziggy Stardust and Nancy Sinatra.

They introduce him to their own new world of bra-burning, acid tripping, folk-dancing, nudity and mass love-ins. And the Superman Genarro periodically returns

from the dead to impart words of superhero wisdom to the bullied and “different” Peppino, as he struggles to understand and appreciate his differences.

Kryptonite! is a really great coming-of-age drama. It has a complex, but easy-to-follow story with a dozen main characters; Visually and aurally it’s a fantastic feast of eye- (and ear-) candy, including sets, costumes, amazing locations and seventies music.

ALPS
Dir: Giorgos Lanthimos

Something’s strange: why is a moustachioed EMT worker asking a dying patient about their favourite movie star, instead of allergies and past illnesses? Well, he’s gathering data for his second job: it’s a private enterprise where he and his colleagues – a nurse at his hospital, a competitive gymnastic dancer and her coach – rent themselves out to take the place of recently dead or injured people. This way their families and friends can ease more gradually into their new lives, and cope with the large gap. The business is called “Alps” (to evoke the steadfastness and immovable nature of the Alps mountains), with each of the four answering to a secret code name based on a famous Swiss peak (Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa…). The bossy paramedic declares himself the highest peak of the Alps.

Their role is ambiguous, lying somewhere among therapist, actor and prostitute.

They memorize pat dialogue, likes and dislikes so they can pretend to be the missing ones. But the four of them have different aims. The gymnast yearns to leave stodgy classical ribbon dancing and move onto modern pop sounds… like Prince. But she’s is kept tethered by a cruel coach who says he’ll break every bone in her body if she deviates from his orders. Meanwhile the paramedic is a petty dictator, a suspicious popinjay who wants to keep the others members in line with his power scheme. But the nurse would rather fall in love — even artificially — and if the process involves sex, all the better. So the two men want more control, while the women want more freedom.

This is the same director who made the great movie Dogtooth and ALPS shares a lot of its style: intentionally stilted dialogue, long pauses, long takes; a story about vainglorious adults behaving like adolescent bullies and their oppressed victims; and an unnervingly dated and outré look to everything. I guess I’ve adjusted to Lanthimos’s style since Dogtooth, as it no longer bowls me over, but it’s still funny and absurd and shocking with an amazingly strange story. The acting and the characters still grab my attention.

Your Sister’s Sister, and ALPS both open tonight in Toronto, check your local listings; and Kryptonite! plays the opening night of the Italian Contemporary Film Festival next week – for details go to icff.ca . Also opening is the excellent but heart-wrenching documentary 5 Broken Cameras, about the Israel/Palestine conflict from the point of view of a Palestinian activist in a small village; the experimental Indian drama Patang (aka Kites), co-starring Seema Biswas; and the Toronto Korean Film Fest, featuring great Korean classics from years past, like The Tale of Two Sisters; Mother; and Old Boy. Go to TKFF.ca for details.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM, with podcasts and complete reviews available on my web site CulturalMining. com.

Interview: Daniel Garber talks to Rob Stewart about his new documentary Slaughter Nick for President

Posted in Canada, Cultural Mining, documentary, Movies, NXNE, Protest, Punk, Serbian, War by CulturalMining.com on June 16, 2012
What would you do if you’re a Canadian actor whose TV career as an action hero tanked a decade earlier and who moves into his mom’s basement near Toronto? And then you somehow discover you still have a huge fan base halfway around the world, and that, without knowing it, you may have inspired a social movement that led to the overthrow of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic?
Rob Stewart about his incredible story, punk rock, war, student protests, and the fascinating new documentary Slaughter Nick for President, (co-directed by Liza Vespi, Marc Vespi, and Rob Stewart) having its world premier at NXNE in Toronto.

June 16, 2012. Indie Music, Indie Films. Movies Reviewed: Jobriath A.D., My Father and the Man in Black, KMS: Jewish Negroes, Safety Not Guaranteed

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies, for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, genre and mainstream movies, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Gruff, screech, pitta-patta, swoosh, grind, boom, buzz, scratch… (thank God I’m not a music writer) these are some of the sounds you hear at a club, on stage or under the open sky. And it’s what NXNE brings to you.

NXNE is Toronto’s monumental indie music festival, but it’s also a film festival, playing movies, videos, documentaries and feature films — all with a musical element to them: this means the good movies always have amazing soundtracks.

So this week I’m talking about two documentaries on famous musicians and their managers; another one about a hiphop team with zero turntables and a microphone; and an indie comic-drama about a would-be journalist meeting a would-be time-traveller.

Jobriath A.D.
Dir: Kieran Turner

Who the hell is Jobriath? I vaguely remember seeing the name on covers in record delete bins, but that’s it. But it turns out he was this openly gay pop-rock performer in the 60’s and 70’s, who had a tumultuous rise and fall. This amazing documentary — with a wicked glam-rock soundtrack – delves into his history as a small town boy, who moves to LA, stars as the sexual character Woof in the famous hippie musical HAIR, records orchestral folk/pop songs, composes music, and then, under the wing of bigtime promoter Jerry Brandt, launches as a glam rock superstar. He imagines a Parisian extravaganza with him climbing the empire state building on stage in a King Kong suit, fighting off airplanes and transforming into Marlene Dietricht. His rise and fall and rise again – as a moustachioed Cole Porter-like piano player in Manhattan – is documented in this very cool biography of a little-known musician ahead of his time. Maybe there are too many clips of other musicians giving their opinions on hiom, but its more than made up for with vintage TV and film recordings and very cool animation sequences that illustrate each stage of his life.

While there are a few too many talking heads for my taste, this is a really great documentary about an otherwise forgotten pop/rock legend.

My Father and the Man in Black
Dir: Jonathan Holiff

When London, Ontario promoter / manager Saul Holiff committed suicide, he left behind a storage locker packed with transcripts and recordings of his day-to-day life with Johnny Cash. He was the guy who got the singer out of jail, who booked him to play in Folsom prison, who introduced him to June Carter – who made him a superstar and turned his life around.

But he’s also the guy who more or less abandoned his wife and kids as he travelled around North America with the C&W singer. This fascinating and unusual documentary was made by his son Jonathan, and it delves into the strange and sometimes bitter relationship between the drug-addicted and later born-again Johnny and the hard-driven, pragmatic Saul. The film uses beautifully-shot, silent re-enactments with recorded voice-overs, along with period footage, snapshots and documents, and filmclips taken from the director’s dad’s collection, to give a behind-the-scenes perspective on Johnny Cash.

KMS: Jewish Negroes
Dir: Moran Ifergan

In the news a lot these days is the plight of East African migrants and refugees living in Israel, some of who are facing discrimination, violent attacks or forcible removal.

This movie is about a different group, a largely ignored population – Israeli-born citizens of Ethiopean background who have fallen by the wayside. It concentrates on three hiphop artists, “KMS” band, rappers living in a grim, run-down housing project in Rehovot. This is a raw documentary that follows the three of them through impromptu performances with just an ipod and a microphone, their travels to the big city, and encounters with police, and their largely hostile neighbours. Very interesting movie.

Safety Not Guaranteed
Dir: Colin Trevorrow

Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is fairly miserable. Her dad says she’s carried a black cloud around with her since her mom died when she was 14. Now she’s in her 20s, struggling with her unpaid internship at a Seattle magazine. Then she gets her big chance to follow a story – a newspaper classified ad asking for a companion to travel through time: “This is not a joke!”

So Jeff (Jake M Johnson), a douche-y magazine writer, Darius, and the other intern Arnau — a meek, sexually repressed nerd – climb into a car and drive out to the small town to find the guy who placed the ad and write a story about him.

Darius poses as the companion but soon becomes a real friend with the paranoid conspiracy-theorist Kenneth (Mark Duplass). He works in a Big Box store, but claims he has found the secret to time travel – and that’s why the feds are chasing him. Well, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you: turns out there really are men in trench coats following him around!

The story wavers between adventure/comedy and simple romance: Kenneth and Darius may become more than just time travelers; obnoxious Jeff may find love with a woman he had sex with in highschool; and meek Arnau might come out of his shell when he meets some small-town Goths looking for fun. And what about the time travel? Is this science fiction or the newly popular genre faux-science fiction? Well, you’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

Aubrey Plaza and Marc Duplass are a great team. Safety Not Guarateed is a good, cute very low-budget film – much more fun than the average rom-com.

Safety Not Guaranteed, and the great art documentary I reviewed last week, Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present both open today, check your local listings; Jobriath, My Father and the Man in Black, and KMS: Jewish Negroes, (plus the wonderful Slaughter Nick for President) are all playing at NXNE straight through the weekend and are included with festival passes or bracelets – go to NXNE.com for details. And Ingrid Veninger, the Toronto director of the sweet romance Modra and the biting art satire I am a good person I am a bad person, is showing her films at the Royal, and is holding a $1000 dollar feature film challenge for prospective low-budget filmmakers! Go to punkfilms.ca for details.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM, with podcasts and complete reviews available on my web site CulturalMining. com.

June 8, 2012. Bodies. Movies Reviewed: Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, Harakiri: Death of a Samurai, Guilty of Romance

Posted in Art, Cultural Mining, Japan, Movies, Mystery, Sex Trade, Suicide, Toronto, Uncategorized, US, violence, Zatoichi, 日本电影, 日本映画 by CulturalMining.com on June 8, 2012

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies, for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, genre and mainstream movies, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Does art bore you? Do foreign movies with subtitles seem dull? Well, you’re in for a shock. Three shocks actually, that should rid you of that notion. This week I’m looking at three movies about people who use and abuse their bodies. One’s a Japanese drama about men who stick sharp objects into their stomachs in the name of honour; another is a Japanese dramatic thriller about two women who sell their bodies, but only for the thrill of it; and one is an American documentary about a woman who throws her naked body, full-force, at immobile naked men – but purely for artistic reasons.

To start with, here’s an art movie — well, a movie about art — that definitely won’t put you to sleep.

Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present
Dir: Matthew Akers

Marina Abramovic is a beautiful artist in her 60’s, born in Belgrade to parents who were hardcore Communists who fought in the resistance in WWII. They were cold, militaristic and authoritarian, so she chooses to go in the opposite direction with her art. She becomes a pioneer in radical performance art, beginning in the 1970’s. She’s famous for using her own body — usually naked — as the medium of her art.

She cuts herself, burns herself, starves herself, hurts herself, throws herself against immutable objects, and whips herself. But she brings the military discipline with which she was raised to sustain these extended and painful performances.

Then she meets another artist in the Netherlands who does similar things, and they fall madly in love. Now she has a performance partner — Ulay — and a life partner. They slap each others faces, over and over, throw themselves body first into one another… things like that. And always naked, of course.

But all things end, and when they break up, she is devastated, both emotionally and artistically. She had always handled the artistic side but not the “business” side of art…

Flash-forward to the present. She has transformed herself into a hugely successful art superstar – mow as much a theatrical performer as an ideological artist — and the Museum of Modern Art decides to do a retrospective. But she’s in her sixties, so she gathers a whole gang of young artists with nice bodies in a performance art bootcamp and meditation lodge! They’re going to re-perform her old pieces using their new bodies.

And Marina herself sets up a (now famous) performance at MoMA that consists of her sitting in a chair in a huge, empty white hall for long periods of time in a chair, facing another chair. The viewers sit across from her, one by one, and look deeply into her eyes — no speaking, no moving, no eating… just staring, completely still. It becomes more and more popular, until it reaches the point where people are camped out on the sidewalk overnight, coming into New York City from distant places. Marina as superstar.  The movie follows her past (using period footage and photos), her ascent to celebrity-hood, her amazing performance, and her behind-the- scenes look at constructing this work. It’s equal parts art, fame, emotion and philosophy… with just a bit of hucksterism.

If you’ve never seen a movie about art (or if fine art intimidates you), this is a good one to start with — it’s exciting, sexy, entertaining, funny, shocking and totally accessible. Great movie!

Harakiri: Death of a Samurai
Dir: Takashi Miike

Did you know that Samurai were basically bureaucrats and tax collectors not fighters? Around 1600 after the Battle of Sekigahara unified the country under the Tokugawa military government, the samurai who had fought on the losing sides often found themselves as Ronin – samurai without a master. That left them penniless, aimless, and with a great loss in status.

So this movie’s about a poor ronin named Hanshiro who shows up at the House of Yii saying he wants to commit harakiri (ritual suicide). That’s where a samurai takes his smaller sword and slices up his belly until he dies… at which point, another samurai chops off his head… nice.

But what does the Daimyo’s rep say? “Oh no, not again…!” You see, a younger ronin named Motome had tried the same thing not long before. He was a scammer who just wanted a few coins as a payoff for not bloodying up their nice courtyard. But they called his bluff – go ahead and kill yourself. But he didn’t have the short sword – he pawned it and replaced it with a bamboo replica. But the cruel samurai says, doesn’t matter – and there’s a long painful scene where they force this young ronin to go through with this, to pierce his belly with a piece of broken wood! …ouch!

Anyway, back to the present, they tell this story and tell the older ronin he can go home, no problem. But here the plot turns…. Turns out he’s that younger ronin’s father in law, and he came to prove a point: that the samurai code, the vaunted code of warriors, that bastion of dignity and honour, is just a load of crap.

The movie culminates in a scene that wouldn’t be out of place in a Zatoichi (the blind swordsman) pic!

My description can’t do justice to this movie (and I don’t want to give it all away), but it’s a dark, tense drama and a damning challenge to authority and corruption, showing how false and hollow the whole thing is. It’s directed by Takashi Miike, who is known for his violence and excess, but is amazingly restrained here, with an almost Shakespearean take on a 17th century Japanese samurai drama.

Guilty of Romance
Dir: Sion Sono
(Restricted to age 18+)

Tokyo police detectives find a bloody scene in a love hotel, and want to uncover this mystery. But what a mystery it is!

It starts with a new bride who has a dictatorial husband. She’s a sexually naïve, traditional Japanese housewife who wears a kimono, with her hair pulled back, bows to her lover, and when he leaves for work in the morning (he’s a novelist) she dutifully turns his slippers around so they’ll be ready for him when he comes home.

Then one day she decides to take a job in a grocery store dressed in a little hat and a uniform offering sausage samples on toothpicks to passing shoppers. Soon, a woman claiming to be a modelling agent convinces her to pose for photos. This soon turns to nude photos, then to hardcore porn on video.

She is shaken by the experience, but also sexually awakened. She starts picking up guys she meets in central Shibuya, and gradually drifts into the nearby love hotel district (Maruyama). There she meets a crazed streetwalker who takes her under her wing, and tells her about a mythical, Kafkaesque “castle” where all things will be made clear to her.

So she becomes almost a disciple to this mysterious fiery-eyed and raven haired woman who tells her never, ever to have sex for free… unless she is with the one who loves her. But she soon finds out, this scary streetwalker is, like her, living a double life! She’s actually a well-known university professor who lectures to packed halls by day, but trolls the alleys in disguise by night.

But there’s still further deceit in their secret lives. Guilty of Romance is a violent, sexual ly explicit exploitation drama, based on a true story.

The director, Sion Sono, is amazing in that he takes very recent pulp news stories, and turns them into way-over-the-top funny, gory, emotionally fraught, and semi-pornographic sexual movies. I’ve seen three of his recent movies, and they’re all amazing. Not for the faint of heart, but if you like female-centred shock movies, with terrific pot-boiler stories and super creepy characters (like the grandmother who speaks ultra politely but drips venom with every phrase), this is the movie for you.

Guilty of Romance plays tonight, and Harakiri on Sunday – with a live Taiko performance — both as part of the Toronto Japanese Film Festival (which runs until the 20th at the JCCC), and Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present opens next week – check your local listings. The CFC World Short Film Festival is on right now through Sunday, and NXNE, Toronto’s enormous music, film, and digital festival, begins on the 13th,, next Thursday.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM, with podcasts and complete reviews available on my web site CulturalMining. com.

Daniel Garber interviews Amie Williams, Brian Austin, and Melissa Austin about the new doc We Are Wisconsin

Posted in Cultural Mining, documentary, Hotdocs, Politics, Protest, Resistance, Uncategorized, US by CulturalMining.com on June 3, 2012

ImageOn Tuesday, June 5th, the people of the State of Wisconsin will vote whether to recall Governor Scott Walker because of his unprecedented attack on the state’s public sector. A new documentary (that played at Hotdocs 2012 in Toronto) called We Are Wisconsin looks at the events that led up to this recall election. After the Republican Governor tried to pass a law eliminating collective bargaining, nurses, police officers, fire fighters, social workers, students, labour leaders, activists and many others — over 100,000 of them — converged on Madison and occupied the Capitol building.

I spoke with the film’s director, Amie Williams; Brian Austin, a policeman from the capital who started the Cops for Labour brigade, and associate producer Melissa Austin.Image

Interview: Daniel Garber speaks with Patrick Wang and Sebastian Banes about their new film IN THE FAMILY.

Posted in Cultural Mining, Drama, Family, Uncategorized, US by CulturalMining.com on June 3, 2012

Image“In The Family” (opening in Toronto and Vancouver on June 1, 2012) is a powerful drama about child custody. Patrick Wang plays Joey whose 6 year old son Chip (Sebastian Banes) is taken away from him when Joey’s lover (and Chip’s biological father) Cody dies. The moving and realistic film explores the meanings of family, kinship and parental rights, and how the meanings shift when faced with sexual and racial differences.

I speak with Writer/Director Patrick Wang and co-star Sebastian Banes (age 8) about this film that manages to be challenging (in both form and topic) and moving. Image

June 1, 2012. Bad Dads. Movies Reviewed: A Beginner’s Guide to Endings, Lovely Molly PLUS In the Family

Posted in Canada, comedy, Crime, Cultural Mining, Family, Fighting, Horror, Horses, Movies, Supernatural, Uncategorized, US, violence by CulturalMining.com on June 1, 2012
Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies, for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, genre and mainstream movies, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Hundreds of thousands of students are on the streets of Montreal protesting the old-guard government’s plan to double university tuition and for enacting new laws that let the police arrest almost anyone they want. Does this mean we’re having another 1960’s style youth revolt against the patriarchy? Are Dads bad?

As always, life reflects art and art reflects life. Later on this morning I’m talking with director and star Patrick Wang and young actor Sebastian Blane about their moving new pro-dad film, In the Family, about a father’s fight to hold on to his son when the biological father (his same-sex spouse), dies. But, before that, I’m talking about some bad dads and what happens to their kids. One’s a Canadian comedy about three brothers who learn their late father was the cause of their own imminent deaths; and the other’s an American horror movie about a young woman who thinks her dead bad dad has come back to get her.

A Beginner’s Guide to Endings

Dir: Jonathon Sobel

Duke (Harvey Keitel) is an inveterate gambler in Niagara Falls Ontario, who throws himself into the Niagara River, leaving his three sons in a bit of a tangle. He’s the movie’s narrator and as he attempts to end it all he says only a Hail Mary pass or a genuine miracle could save his three oldest sons. It turns out, he had farmed them out to Big Pharma testing program when they were younger, but never told them about the side effects. This means they’re all as good as gone. So how do they handle their new mortality?

Nuts is the oldest (The Daily Show’s Jason Jones, wearing a Viva Zapata moustache). He has to fight an impossible heavyweight boxing match with an undefeated champ if he wants to save chowderhead bro number four from being punched to a pulp. Cal (Scott Caan), #2, the womanizer, decides to stop picking up girls and instead marry his highschool crush Miranda (the statuesque Tricia Helfer). Unfortunately all her three husbands had died unexplained violent deaths. Straight laced #3, Cob (Paulo Costanzo), vows to quit his job and do all the fun things on his bucket list, instead. But this lands him in a precarious position too.

Can they and will they ever get out of their messes?

A Beginner’s Guide to Endings is a cute, screwball-type idea, and not too bad a movie. It is writer-director Sobel’s first film,  and the jokes are hit or miss. He has a bad tendency of killing good lines: Whenever there’s a funny joke, he tells it, then explains it, then has the characters laugh at it, and then brings it up again later in the movie. Doesn’t work. But the comic actors are fun to watch, especially Jason Jones, Tricia Helfer and J.K. Simmons, and it’s good to see Niagara Falls on the big screen again. Not bad for a first try…

Lovely Molly

Dir: Eduardo Sánchez

When Molly (Gretchen Lodge) moves into her old family home with her new husband, Tim the trucker, everyone tells her it’s a bad idea. The karma’s not right, there. The Feng Shui is way off. Never mind that her father is dead. You see, Molly keeps hearing noises, beckoning her to come out and play. Scary voices. Haunting voices. Voices that might make er do bad things. Molly… lovely Molly… It’s all very strange for her. Tim goes away for a few days on some cross country trucking trip when he should have been at home helping her fight her demons. He keeps coming home to see her sitting naked staring at a closet door that reminds her of something bad from her childhood.

So Molly decide to investigate on her own. She finds old photo albums with pictures of her Charles Manson-like father. And then there are all these satanic-looking horse head designs in the garage. What’s up with that? And she keeps hearing knocks and bangs and footsteps – it must be her father coming to get her! But no one else sees him (although everyone notices the smell of noxious rotten flesh in the house). Creepy Pastor Bob’s no help, neither is big sister who looks like a crackhead, and Tim’s never around. And there seems to be a stalker with a video camera ,too.

So what’s the deal? Is Molly crazy? Is she on drugs? Or is she just reliving some psycho-sexual trauma from her childhood? On the other hand, maybe it is a ghost doing all this. Or a possession. Or maybe Satan the horse-demon himself?  Molly says “I saw something but it doesn’t make sense and no one believes me…!” I believe you Molly – I saw something too, and no, it doesn’t make sense.

Lovely Molly is trying, I guess, to reclaim some of the Blair Witch thunder that started the whole genre of found footage films. (Sanchez directed that movie). This one isn’t “found footage” but, like Chernobyl Diaries, includes some of its elements: Molly tries to document the bad guys with her handheld video camera so she can prove they’re really there.

The problem is, it’s a total failure of a horror movie. It tries to be everything and ends up just a confusing mess. It’s got good gore, thrills and chills and some shocking moments and a few unexpected plot twists, but these odds and ends don’t make for a coherent movie.

A Beginner’s Guide to Endings, Lovely Molly, and In the Family all open today in Toronto – check your local listings. The CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival opens on Tuesday, The Toronto Japanese Film Festival starts Thursday, NXNE begins on the 13th, and it was just announced today that Toronto’s first annual Italian Contemporary Film Festival, featuring films by Nanni Moretti, Ivan Cotroneo, and the Canadian Premier of Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love, will be launched on June 26th. Check out icff.ca for more information.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM, with podcasts and complete reviews available on my web site CulturalMining. com.

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