Daniel Garber talks with Donnie Dumphy and Nik Sexton about their new film How to be Deadly

Posted in Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on September 25, 2015

How to Be Deadly Poster - LargeDonnie Dumphy lives a comfortable life in a remote corner of St John’s, Newfoundland. On Thursdays, he picks up his government cheque and invests in essentials for the weekend: pot and beer. For the rest of the week he survives on breakfast cereal and free coffee creamers. He hangs with his HowToBeDeadly_Nik-and-Marybuds Jimmers, Tom and the rest of the gang. But his true loves are his longtime girlfriend Brenda and his midget dirt bike… not necessarily in that order. But can Donnie win a dirt bike competition? Or will his arch-rivals Versace and the HowToBeDeadly_Ice-cream (1)Dirty Daggers beat him at his own game? And will we ever understand a word he says?

You can find out the answers tonight in a new movie called How to be Deadly. It just won Best Feature Film at the Canadian Comedy Awards and is showing in Toronto — for one night only — at the Cineplex Yonge Dundas Theatre at 7 pm.

I spoke to Donnie Dumphy and filmmaker Nik Sexton by telephone in Toronto. They told me how to be delicious and deadly, and shared their views on dirt bikes, wolves, mainlanders, creamers, CODCO, the 1980s, Jon Bon Jovi, Rick Mercer, Rex Murphy, St. John’s Nfld, Tommy Sexton, chastity jeans, youtube, bingo… and more!

Strangers in a Strange Land: Alice in Wonderland, The Green Zone, Cooking with Stella

To provide adventure, mystery or comedy, directors often turn to far-away locations to add a bit of novelty to their films. The hero often starts out as a stranger in a weird place, a fish out of water, but over the course of the movie, she learns to adapt, fit in, fall in love, become friends… or else escapes out of that strange hell-hole she found herself in. In a good movie set abroad, you get to see some things you never would otherwise, maybe get to know some local characters — not just the hero from back home — and, ideally, hear them speak in a language the viewer can understand, or at least one with subtitles.

A bad movie of this type (like the popular and critically acclaimed “Lost in Translation”) just uses the locals as scenery, their lines untranslated, leaving the viewer in the dark as to their real characters. It’s ideal for conveying fear or alienation, but good for little else.

Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” tells a new version of the well-known story, the ultimate stranger in a strange land. His version is a different take on Lewis Carroll’s book, or, you could say, a remake of the original Disney cartoon.

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is now an extremely rich, young woman in Victorian England, not a little girl, who is at a garden party at her palatial estate. When she has to make a big decision, with hundreds of people watching, she decides instead to chase a white rabbit down his hole. There she finds herself in Wonderland, or “Underland”, where she discovers friends and enemies all of whom seem to know her, but aren’t sure she’s the real Alice (I’m not sure either).

Her friends — the Dormouse, the March Hare, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat — tell her she must find the vorpal sword and slay the Jabberwocky, snicker-snack, on a specific day. Her enemies, the fractious, dictatorial Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter) who likes to yell “Off with their heads!” and her suitor, the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) are busy looking for Alice, not knowing it even when they see her. Alice herself gradually shifts from being a naïve passive character, to a Joan of Arc-style heroine.

Some parts of this movie were a lot of fun, and there were some neat images added to it – the deck of cards that made up the Queen of Hearts’ army were much stronger and scarier — more metallic, less paper-y — than the original drawings by John Tenniel.

But so much of the original Alice depended on its caricatures, fun plays on words, puzzles, symbols, and poem and song parodies, which were largely dumped in this version. The one poem used, The Jabberwocky, was given too much prominence, with its unusual nonsense vocabulary (like “frabjous day”) repeated way too often in the story line. I suppose they wanted it to make sense – to small children, I guess.

I wasn’t that taken by this movie. The costumes and the design were impressive, and it had a great cast, but that’s not enough to keep me rapt. I think this version was made for small children, and has minimal appeal to adults.

Its biggest problem is that a lot of the absurdity and irony of the original is gone. Caricatures might work as political cartoons on paper, but not on the much more real move screen. When I was a kid, I liked the poems like “You are old Father William”, and “The Walrus and the Carpenter” because they were cruelly funny. That’s all been neatly scrubbed away and Disneyfied, replaced with a hard-line literalness, no irony, few twists, and fewer hints of psychedelia than even the old Disney cartoon. If the book was The Simpsons, this movie is The Flintstones.

“Green Zone”, directed by Paul Greengrass, is a movie about the reasons given by the US to justify the war in Iraq, and how one American soldier tries to uncover the truth.

Roy Miller (Matt Damon), a soldier in Iraq in 2004, is in charge of a team in Baghdad looking for weapons of mass destruction – the “WMDs” that were the reason US and Britain gave for invading that country. But his searches are turning up nothing. He thinks the intelligence they’re using is faulty. But whenever he questions it within the military he’s told there is no problem with the information, and to follow his orders and shut up. Then a local man (Khalid Abdalla) gives Miller some potentially significant news about former Iraqi government officials.

With the help of his new-found friend (“Call me Freddy”), Miller breaks up a meeting in progress, and briefly glimpses one of the men, Al Rawi, whose picture was on the “most wanted“ deck of cards that were actually issued by the US government during this war.

Miller, frustrated, turns to the CIA, as represented by a tubby, middle-aged agent named Brown. Brown casually tosses him a million dollars in cash in a knapsack to pass on to persons of interest. Meanwhile, other American officials are doing what they can to stymie his plans. Who will come out on top? What’s the secret? Is the embedded journalist, a Judith Miller-type character, reliable? Are there any WMDs at all? And what is Al Rawi’s secret information?

Green Zone is a fast-moving war flick about the big issue of US culpability for invading Iraq, as investigated by Matt Damon’s everyman soldier, and the Iraqi contact he works with. While not an anti-war movie – it depends on guns, explosions, helicopters, chases and shootouts for its eye-candy – it is clearly against the US excuses for invading Iraq. US culpability is rarely seen in mainstream movies.

The Director, Paul Greengrass, likes jiggly hand-held camera shots, and a documentary-style. To lend authenticity, he liberally borrows scenes from movies like the fantastic 2004 documentary “Gunner Palace”, which had GI’s sunbathing by swimming pools in half-destroyed Baghdad mansions. So a lot of the movie is interesting to watch. And as a shootout-mystery-thriller, Green Zone’s not bad either.

Cooking with Stella”, Canadian Director Dilap Mehta’s first film, is about another set of people in a distant place. Maya and Michael, a Canadian diplomatic couple placed in New Delhi (played by Donald McKellar and Lisa Ray) are settling in at the High Commission.

Michael (who’s character was based on the real-life chef at Rideau Hall in Ottawa), finds himself with not much to do in New Delhi. So he tries to get their servant and cook, Stella, a Christian Indian woman known for her skill in the kitchen, to become his guru, and introduce him to Indian cooking. Luckily, the movie is more than a cooking show. It’s actually a sort of an upstairs-downstairs look at clueless expat Canadians and their wily, crooked servants who take advantage of them at the drop of a hat.

The Canadians are really side characters – Don McKellar is there more as the straight man than the comic. The main plot involves Stella (played by the very funny Seema Biswas) and the gambling, drinking, black marketeering, and paybacks that are her daily bread and butter in her little subcultural fiefdom within the embassy. When an innocent new nanny, Tannu, threatens to upset Stella’s world with her honesty, she realizes she needs a new plan. Her goals become larger and even more nefarious, but end up with Stella being kidnapped. What will become of her?

The movie is a cute, small film, with a fairly low budget, and a first-time director, so — judging by those criteria — it’s enjoyable and not bad. There’s a bit of Bollywood parody scenes, some colourful views of an outdoor food market, some funny dialogue. (It also has some painfully lame gags involving driving on the wrong side of the road, and some obvious joke set-ups) It’s loaded with lots of Canadian references — Group of Seven and Norval Morisseau pictures on the walls; a Welcome / Bienvenue sign on a foreboding embassy fence – but it concentrates less on the strangers in the strange land, more on the interesting local characters.

Actually, I liked the scenes that reminded me of Mira Nair’s movie “Monsoon Wedding”, also a comedy about the inter-linked worlds of families and their servants in India. The blah, Canadian-focused scenes were what dragged this movie down a bit and made it palatable but bland. But see it for great, funny Indian characters in a Canadian movie.

Fox Fights Mid-life Crisis by Attacking Henhouse: Fantastic Mr Fox

Posted in Movies by CulturalMining.com on November 24, 2009



Fantastic Mr Fox
Dir: Wes Anderson

Mr Fox, a fox, has given up his youthful exploits as a wild animal and thief in a foxhole, and become a law-abiding husband and father. Dressed in a double-breasted corduroy suit, and living in the English countryside, he is content writing unread columns for the newspaper and talking about real estate prices. But when his athletic and popular nephew Kristofferson moves in with them — making Fox’s son Ash feel inadequate and jealous — Fox yearns again for his adventurous youth. He decides (despite Mrs Fox’s warnings) to revive his days as a thief for one last grand heist, and starts a series of raids on the hen houses of the three behemoth corporate farms on the hills facing his tree-house. The evil farmers, Bunce, Boggis, and Bean, form a team to combat the foxes, and the meanest of the three, Boggis, captures Fox’s tail. The farmers want to destroy all the animals, while the animals — foxes, badgers, rabbits — just want to live in peace. And Fox wants his tail back. As Bugs Bunny said to Yosemite Sam, this means war: the animals with American accents vs. the very English farmers. (In most U.S. movies, villains are easy to spot by their “foreign” accents.)

Director Wes Anderson has been on a downward spiral. After the very good Bottle Rocket (1996) and the great Rushmore (1998) came the lamely annoying The Royal Tenenbaums (2002) and the barely watchable The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) I had just about given up going to his movies. But now comes Fantastic Mr Fox, his exciting, funny, and beautifully made stop-motion, animated version of Roald Dahl’s famous children’s book. It is a very enjoyable movie done in a retro, homemade-looking manner. He avoids ugly computer animation instead favouring a more rustic, 70’s style. The characters have glassily expressive eyes, the grass and fields are comfortably misshapen and imperfect, and the animals’ fur is nice and messy. Even fire and water are ingeniously made from solid parts. It’s an altogether great-looking movie, with lots of visual gags, likable characters (even a villainous, west-side-story rat) and the interesting plot turns, chase scenes, and explosions that delight kids and adults.

Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. Revenge of the Jocks?

Posted in Breasts, College, comedy, Feminism, Good Ol' Boys, Movies, Sex, Sex Trade, Strippers, Women by CulturalMining.com on November 13, 2009

beer in hell

Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
Dir: Bob Gosse

Tucker Max (Matt Czuchry) takes his two sidekicks, Drew (Jesse Bradford) and Dan (Geoff Stults) on a drive to a faraway strip bar for a bachelor’s party the night before Dan’s wedding. They get drunk, act like boors, break things, and insult women while ogling their breasts. The End.

Is it funny to watch a rich, privileged, southern, white, good ol’ boy and his buddies enjoy the good life at the expense of everyone else? Not particularly. Is it unusual for someone like Tucker Max (the man, not the character) to enjoy describing his pick-ups and sex life in detail on a blog (www.tuckermax.com)? Unfortunately not.

In fact, is there anything, anything at all, distinctive or worthwhile about such a patently offensive movie? Maybe a little. It has a few very funny lines, and there’s an engaging round of competitive insults between the abusive, depressed gamer Drew and a smart stripper; and affable acting by the actor playing Tucker Max. But on the whole, jokes with audaciousness but no irony — humour that takes the side of the bullies instead of the underdogs — quickly begin to grate. Ten-minute potty jokes are better written down than shown. It’s supposed to be funny when he happily tosses bills off a wad of cash to get poor people to do unpleasant things for him. And you do laugh at the awfulness of his mindset. But it’s not meant to be self-deprecating; you’re supposed to think of him as a hero for his unparalleled honesty.tucker max with ex-girlfriend

Tucker Max is touring the continent with campus previews of his film (earlier this week at Innis College, University of Toronto) and surprisingly he attracts as many female fans as males. His Q&A this week after the screening was funnier than the movie — he’s a good stand-up comic. But he’s the type of guy who gets his laughs by insulting insecure students in the audience: “I liked you in Harold and Kumar, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.” The most surprising thing about Tucker Max may be the fact that he doesn’t get beaten up.

Tagged with: , ,
%d bloggers like this: