Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Should've gone with Bell...

Check this out, a montage of charicters in horror movies convienently (or inconvienently) finding their cell phones useless when they need them most. As screenwriter John August points out on his blog, it's a necessary evil - everyone has a phone these days, so a writer often has to explain why it's unusable. Hopefully, though, one can find a more elegant way to do so than these...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blu-ray Review: Streets of Blood

Val Kilmer actioner Streets of Blood is the subject of my latest review, available here.

This'll be my last review for a while, until after our baby is born, but I'll try to step up the blogging as I can.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Blu-ray Review: High Crimes

It's a middle-of-the-road thriller from seven years ago, but it's new to Blu-ray, so here's my review of High Crimes. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Before Their Time: Dark City

New column this week, check it out here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blu-ray Review: The Informers

What's this, another review? Yes indeed, today at DVD Verdict you'll find my take on a movie that takes a magnifying glass to 80s Hollywood, The Informers. Check it out here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Two new Blu-ray reviews

Two new reviews posted today: State of Play, an excellent political thriller with Russell Crowe and the always-lovely Rachel McAdams, and on the other end of the spectrum, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Both hit the streets tomorrow on Blu-ray.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Before Their Time: John Carpenter's The Thing

If you've known me long enough, you've probably heard me go on and on about John Carpenter's The Thing, a really fantastic sci-fi horror picture from 1982. I just can't get enough of this movie. So it should come as no surprise that I've written a column about said masterpiece, and it's available at - follow the link here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

DVD Review: American Violet

In a pre-release review (the movie comes out in September), I tackle the compelling true story American Violet in my latest work for DVD Verdict, now available here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Before Their Time: The Big Lebowski

One of my all-time favourite movies, The Big Lebowski, gets the Before Their Time treatment today. Check out my column here, then go watch it again.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Movie Reviews: A River Runs Through it and Fragments

I missed linking to this last week, but I reviewed Robert Redford's lovely film A River Runs Through It on Blu-ray: check it here.

Today, my review of the DVD Fragments, aka Winged Creatures, is up at DVD Verdict, so take a look.

Later this week, I'll have a Before Their Time column praising that venerable classic, The Big Lebowski, up at Box Office Prophets.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Before Their Time: Sunshine

I'm on vacation, but still posted a column for Box Office Prophets about a great little sci-fi picture, Sunshine - read all about it here.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Before Their Time: Licence to Kill

I wrote a blog post a while back professing my love for the 007 adventure Licence to Kill, and now I've done a column about it too: check it out here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

DVD Review: They Call Me Bruce

From the nostalgia file comes this review of the 1981 kung-fu cult classic They Call Me Bruce, available here.

Later this week I'll have a new Before Their Time column, this time focusing on one of my all-time favourite James Bond flicks, Licence to Kill.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Robots in disguise

Okay, so, any critic that praised the first Transformers movie and then decided to crap all over Revenge of the Fallen needs to give his or her head a shake. I cannot see how people who loved one can hate the other. I truly enjoyed Revenge and strongly recommend anyone with interest in seeing it to cough up the extra few dollars for IMAX - so very, very worth it. Like The Dark Knight there are a handful of sequences shot with IMAX cameras that fill the entire screen, and seeing a close up of Optimus' head 50 feet high is worth the price of admission.

Are there problems? Sure - same as the original film. It's bloated with exposition, every scene not involving the robots runs about two minutes longer than it should, and there are several characters that could have been eliminated with little effect on the finished product (including Megan Fox, whose role consists almost entirely of running in slow motion and looking concerned while other people talk). But Revenge of the Fallen delivers on some seriously cool action, and, surprisingly, it's easier to tell the robots apart this time around despite there being exponentially more of them. Most of the comedy works, the locations are interesting, and the sound will rock you to your very heart. Don't believe the hype - this movie pays off. I can't wait for the Blu-ray.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Blu-ray Review: Glory

Hey look, it's another movie review!

So, I'm checking out the new Transformers film tomorrow (in IMAX), and am having trouble ignoring the scathing reviews this film is attracting, even from people who really liked the first and expected to love the follow-up. Michael Bay has never been known for subtlety or well-rounded characterization (which is why Pearl Harbor didn't work at all), but he can always be counted on to deliver the action goods - making it all the more worrisome that a number of critics are saying the movie is boring. Nevertheless, I expect to be entertained, and look forward to seeing a life-sized Optimus Prime. I'll report back later.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Before Their Time: The China Syndrome

The China Syndrome, a thinking-man's thriller from 1979, gets the Before Their Time treatment in my latest column. Check it out here.

Next week I'll post a review of the new Blu-ray edition of Glory.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Blu-ray Review: Indecent Proposal

To much fanfare, Adrian Lyne's Indecent Proposal has arrived on Blu-ray; the format finally has a chance for success. Check it out here.

Monday, June 8, 2009

DVD Review: Resolved

My review of the excellent documentary Resolved is now available here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Blu-ray Review: Revolutionary Road

The devastating dissection of a deteriorating marriage is the subject of my latest review, in the form of Revolutionary Road. It's a brilliant film, clearly one of 2008's best. Read the review here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

DVD Review: New in Town

The forgettable romantic comedy New in Town gets rundown in my latest review here.

Before Their Time: The Manchurian Candidate

Here's my latest Before Their Time column.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Before Their Time: Hulk

This is bound to be a popular one - my latest Before Their Time column, dealing with Ang Lee's much maligned Hulk can be found here.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Before Their Time: Fight Club

Box Office Prophets has published another of my Before Their Time columns, this time dealing with David Fincher's vilified masterpiece Fight Club. Check it out here.

Movie Reviews: The Reader and What Doesn't Kill You

Two of my reviews showed up at DVD Verdict this week: The Reader and What Doesn't Kill You.

The Reader is, of course, the highly-acclaimed drama set, partially, during Nazi Germany, and it doesn't disappoint. Be forewarned, however, that it contains a substancial amount of nudity and sexual content (it's an integral part of the story).

What Doesn't Kill You is a true-life crime tale featuring some very good performances and a fresh story, although it kind of fell apart for me at the end.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Before Their Time: EDtv

My latest Before Their Time column, dealing with that dear-to-the-heart Ron Howard masterpiece EDtv, is available here.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Movie Review: Mean Girls

Here it is, the one you've all been waiting for: my review of the 2004 Lindsay Lohan opus Mean Girls is available here.

Actually, if you're looking for a light comedy aimed at the 15-30 set, you cold do a lot worse than this. The script is wittier than it has any right to be, thanks in large part to screenwriter Tina Fay.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Before Their Time: The Fountain

As promised, here is my latest Before Their Time column from Box Office Prophets, this week taking on the sci-fi drama The Fountain.

Blu-ray Review: The Last Metro

After a couple weeks off, I have a new review posted today for a lovely French film from 1980 called The Last Metro. Check it out here.

Stay tuned for a new edition of Before Their Time coming soon!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Before Their Time: Almost Famous

My latest Before Their Time column is available here, and deals with Cameron Crowe's masterwork Almost Famous.

I recently interviewed actor/writer/director Frank Whaley, perhaps best recognized by audiences from his breakout perfomance in Swimming With Sharks, about his latest effort New York City Serenade. I've also reviewed the movie, so I'll link to both once they're posted.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Public Enemy Number One

Holy crap.

The trailer to Michael Mann's upcoming crime epic, Public Enemies, has been released online, and it looks like Heat set in the 1920s. I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it.

Starring Johnny Depp, looking like himself in a movie for the first time in a while, and Christian Bale, who's also in this summer's Terminator: Salvation, I really hope this is the big hit Mann needs to keep making his exceptionally well-crafted films: Miami Vice held big promise a couple of years back, but didn't make the box office that it's high budget called for.

Public Enemies blasts its way onto movie screens July 1.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My new column

I've been invited to write a column for, and so I have. Check out Before Their Time, focusing on influential movies that were under-appreciated upon release, right here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Movie Review: I've Loved You So Long

My review of the intense French Drama I've Loved You So Long is now available here.

Weekend Box Office: February 27 - March 1

From Box Office Mojo.

I may discontinue this as a weekly post, as it's probably not adding much more value than if you just went to BOM each week anyway, but I just wanted to note: the Jonas Brothers officially flopped this weekend, pulling about half of their expected take and finishing behind week 2 of Madea. That's either good or bad news depending on whether you're a 15-year-old girl.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Movie Review: What Just Happened

My review of Robert De Niro's Hollywood-skewering What Just Happened, a movie that doesn't quite live up to the greatness of its source material but it nonetheless worth a look, is available here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Weekend Box Office: February 20-22

Courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

Nothing too crazy, although Tyler Perry had his biggest opening ever with Madea Goes to Jail. Taken continues on its path toward becoming a $100 M domestic hit, a rare feat in February, while Friday the 13th took a major drop to end up at 6th place - it's still over $55 M in two weeks, not bad for a low-budget horror film, even one with major brand recognition (although I imagine the marketing budget was pretty steep for this one, so the listed budget of $19 M is kind of misleading).

Next weekend, expect Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire to get a nice bounce. I would expect that one to be heading for DVD in the near future to take advantage of the eight Oscars it was awarded last night.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Guess who's taking home Oscar

While there are perhaps more 'sure things' at this year's Academy Awards ceremonies than usual, Oscar is notoriously fickle, and the unexpected should always be expected.  That said, here are my wholly unscientific predictions for the big night:
Best Picture - Slumdog Millionaire (I continue to vacillate between this and Benjamin Button as my pick for the top prize)
Best Director - Danny Boyle, for Slumdog Millionaire
Best Actor - Sean Penn, Milk
Best Actress - Kate Winslet, The Reader
Best Supporting Actor - Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Best Supporting Actress - Viola Davis, Doubt
Best Adapted Screenplay - Slumdog Millionaire, Simon Beaufoy
Best Original Screenplay - Milk, Dustin Lance Black
Best Animated Feature - WALL-E
Achievement in Art Direction - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Achievement in Cinematography - Wally Pfister, The Dark Knight
Achievement in Costume Design -  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Documentary Feature - Man on Wire
Best Documentary Short Subject - The Final Inch
Achievement in Film Editing - Chris Dickens, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Foreign Language Film - Waltz with Bashir
Achievement in Makeup - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Achievement in Music - A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
Achievement in Music (Original Song) - 'Down to Earth' from WALL-E, Peter Gabriel
Best Animated Short Film - Presto
Best Live Action Short Film - The Pig
Achievement in Sound Editing - Iron Man
Achievement in Sound Mixing - The Dark Knight
Achievement in Visual Effects - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Movie Review: Changeling

My review of Clint Eastwood's latest gift to cinema lovers, Changeling, is now available here.

Weekend Box Office: February 13-15

Pardon my tardiness - fighting a bad cold - but here're the weekend stats, courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

The big news is the remake/reimagining of Friday the 13th killed (pun intended) over the weekend, taking in an estimated $45 M, despite the film costing a mere $19 M to produce. Horror movies are always a pretty safe bet, but this is phenominal - in one weekend, it has become the 13th (ironically) highest grossing slasher film of all time. All this and, by accounts from genre fans, they did it right too, preserving what people love about the series but putting an updated spin on it. I am very excited (as I'm sure the studio is) for the upcoming remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street from the same people behind this Friday and the excellent (if you like that sort of thing) remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Other story from these numbers is that Taken actually increased its weekend gross by 8%, despite losing a handful of theatres and being around for three weeks.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Movie Review: Pretty Woman [Blu-ray]

My review of the spanky new Blu-ray of Pretty Woman is now available here.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Weekend Box Office: February 6-February 8

From Box Office Mojo.

He's Just Not That Into You predictably takes top spot, proving once again that romantic comedies are one of the safest bets in Hollywood (and are virtually critic proof).

But the bigger news is the mere 18% drop that Taken took - Liam Neeson, while certainly popular, has never been the secret to a big opening weekend (I don't think the money Star Wars: Episode 1 brought in can be attributed to his role...), yet people continue to show up in droves to see him punish those who took his daughter. I haven't seen it, what appears to be a fairly standard genre entry is also the first surprise hit of the year. Watch for a rash of kidnap-and-rescue/revenge movies in the next couple of years, because studio heads are certainly paying attention.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Movie Review: Real Time

My review of the Canadian comedy-drama Real Time is available here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Is the Academy out of touch?

The omission of The Dark Knight - the second-highest grossing film of all time, behind multiple Oscar winner Titanic - from the Academy Awards Best Picture nominations has had some question whether the Academy is out of touch with mainstream moviegoers, preferring small,under-seen character dramas to films that connect with audiences on a large scale. Which, of course, can lead to a debate of art vs. commerce with regard to filmmaking: yes, movies are intended to be entertainment first and foremost, but tying them directly to box office haul would turn them into the motion picture equivalent of the Billboard Music Awards (i.e. irrelevant).

But it's of serious concern to ABC, the television network with the broadcast rights to the Oscar ceremony. While the Academy Awards was once 'must see TV', ratings have steadily plummetedin recent years, leading to efforts to streamline the show and add more variety-type elements. And, the argument goes, things aren't being helped by little independent movies being honoured in place of populist - and critically acclaimed - fare like The Dark Knight.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons why Oscar ratings aren't what they once were. First off, there's a ridiculous number of awards shows on TV nowadays, both on major networks and specialty channels. The Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Spirit Awards, the People's Choice Awards, etc. etc. Some of these have been around for years but are just now being available to the public, which in some cases has taken away some of the fun: the Globes, for instance, have always been a more casual awards night, incorporating dinner and lots of alcohol, so when they were first broadcast we got to see lengthy, heartfelt speeches from well-lubricated celebrities. This year, speeches had a time limit and the whole event seemed like a dress rehearsal for the Oscars. Regardless, there's bound to be a fatigue factor setting in, even in this celebrity-obsessed society.

Let's put that aside, though, and look at the films the Academy has chosen to honour over the past several years. Many would point to 1996 as a major shift in the types of movies that courted Oscar's favour. The Best Picture nominees that year were:


Secrets and Lies

Jerry Maguire

The English Patient (winner)


Only one of these were produced by a major studio or featured a well-known actor (Jerry Maguire). The rest were small independent projects, three of which were produced by now-defunct upstart studio Miramax, starring basically unknown actors, dealing with pretty dark subject matter. All were very good films, by the way, but none really captured the imagination of the North American public.

Here's the list of BP nominees the year before:

Braveheart (winner)

Apollo 13


Il Postino

Sense and Sensibility

You could say that's an odd line-up too, but it's certainly more mainstream than its successor. Braveheart, Babe, and Apollo 13 were all major-studio releases, and Sense and Sensibility featured well-known British actors and was pretty popular in its own right. Only the foreign-language Il Postino was likely to make people say, "what?"

What about the '97 Oscars - were they as anti-mainstream as the year before?

As Good As It Gets

The Full Monty

Titanic (winner)

L.A. Confidential

Good Will Hunting

Here we've got a mix of independents (Good Will Hunting, The Full Monty) and big-budget studio pictures (As Good As It Gets, Titanic, L.A. Confidential), with the biggest of them all taking home the little golden man. Hardly out of touch with popular opinion, I would say (although possibly out of touch with reality, calling The Full Monty one of the year's best).

Let's look at a complete list of BP nominees from the past ten years:


Shakespeare in Love (winner)

Saving Private Ryan


The Thin Red Line

Life is Beautiful


American Beauty (winner)

The Cider House Rules

The Green Mile

The Insider

The Sixth Sense


Gladiator (winner)


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Erin Brockovich



A Beautiful Mind (winner)

Gosford Park

In the Bedroom

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Moulin Rouge


Chicago (winner)

Gangs of New York

The Hours

The Pianist

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers


The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (winner)

Lost in Translation


Mystic River

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World


Million Dollar Baby (winner)

The Aviator

Finding Neverland




Crash (winner)

Brokeback Mountain


Good Night, and Good Luck



The Departed (winner)


Letters from Iwo Jima

Little Miss Sunshine

The Queen


No Country for Old Men (winner)



Michael Clayton

There Will Be Blood


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button



Slumdog Millionaire

The Reader

Well then. There are certainly a number of these nominees whose worthiness as Best Picture of the Year is debatable (cough - Shakespeare in Love - cough) but it looks to me like the Academy is pretty reliable in what makes up the Top 5: a couple of 'prestige' pictures from well-known directors, an independent or two that's made some noise on the film festival circuit (often courtesy of the brothers Weinstein), and a wild card that no one thinks has a snowball's chance in hell of winning.

So, is the Academy become out of touch? I would say, no more than it's always been. Yes it's odd that The Dark Knight won't be competition for the top honour, and were I voting I probably would've included it in my nomination package. But 'best' is subjective, and the collective preferences of the Academy is at once pretty established and yet not something one should take to the bank. If you look at awards shows in general as a way for good movies to get larger viewership, than perhaps omitting The Dark Knight isn't such a bad thing. If you look at them as celebrating the honest-to-goodness best films released in a given year, you're probably set up for disappointment.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Spectaclefest 2009!

A couple of awesome teaser trailers showed up during last night's Super Bowl: G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. (A new teaser for Star Trek, comprised of mostly already-seen footage also appeared, along with the wholly unnecessary Angels & Demons, starring Tom Hanks' hairpiece, but neither rank on the awesome scale anywhere near the aforementioned pictures - maybe it's the lack of colons in their titles).

You remember (or maybe you don't) how when you played with G.I. Joes as a kid, you'd make them do all kinds of crazy moves while sailing through the air in slow motion? Well, apparently the makers of Rise of Cobra do, since that seems to be Snake Eyes' sole purpose in this film. So. Very. Cool.

As for Transformers, it looks like Michael Bay's decided that the giant freakin' robots in the first one were just a little too small, so why not up the stakes a little this time. This explosion-laden 30-seconds gives little inkling of the plot, but I imagine it involves someone falling, then taking revenge.

Weekend Box Office: January 30-February 1 2009

According to Box Office Mojo.

Surprisingly, an action movie (Taken) grabbed top spot despite this being Super Bowl weekend, with Renee Zellweger romantic comedy New In Town putting up some fairly dismal numbers. The movie was also the second-highest grossing movie of all time on Super Bowl Weekend (behind last year's Hannah Montana extravaganza). I guess you can't underestimate the appeal of Liam Neeson kicking some ass. Also nice to see Luc Besson (writer/director of The Fifth Element) getting a much needed hit, as he's credited with co-writing Taken.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A vacuum of comic timing

The most scathing review of my career, for a terrible little film called College, is available here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Good fences make good neighbours

My review of Neil LaBute's excellent new film, Lakeview Terrace, is available here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The doctor is in

Those of you excited for the upcoming film adaptation of Watchmen, check this out

It's an eye opening 'found' newscast from 1970, extolling the virtues of one Dr. Manhattan...

A version of this news story appears in the original graphic novel too - very cool.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Another day, another awards show

The Screen Actors Guild Awards were held last night; the complete list is available here.

Slumdog Millionaire continues to clean up, winning the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture prize (essentially Best Picture for the SAGs), despite said cast being made up of entirely unknown actors in North America. This movie's on a roll.

Highlight of the evening: Meryl Streep's uncontainable enthusiasm after winning for Doubt (she rushed on stage, kissed Ralph Fiennes on the mouth, then dryly remarked that winning awards doesn't mean anything to her).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The little phenomenon

Finally caught Slumdog Millionaire, and it's everything everyone says it is.  This is the real deal, moving at a breakneck pace from start to finish, full of life and love and tragedy.  It's got some surprisingly dark moments, things that'll sting in your chest and burst your balloon, but it's all in the name of a truly moving conclusion.  Director Danny Boyle was born to make this film.

Weekend Box Office: January 23-25 2009

Here's the estimated take from this weekend, courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop reigns again, meaning Kevin James can finally make that little independent film he's always wanted to.  Underworld makes a good showing, despite the lack of Kate Beckinsale in this prequel.  And Gran Torino shows that Clint Eastwood's still a major box office draw, closing in on the $100 M mark.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Henry Poole was here

My review of Henry Poole Is Here, a solid film that manages to overcome a lousy title, was published on Tuesday and can be read here.

Oscar speaks

I'm back, with a New Year's resolution to blog more often (not doing too well so far, though) on this exciting day for movie geeks everywhere - Acadamy Award nomination day.

The complete list can be found here.

A few thoughts about this year's chosen pack:
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button now holds the honour of having received the third-highest number of Oscar nominations in history, behind Titanic and All About Eve. And it couldn't have happened to a nicer film. Benjamin Button currently sits as my favourite film of 2008, a sweeping, romantic, ambitious, thoughtful picture that pushes forward what's possible in this artistic medium. The seamless computer graphics and special effects help tell a lovely story that it's hard not to enjoy.
  • Despite doing quite well at the Golden Globes, Revolutionary Road didn't get nearly the love it was expected to.
  • Slumdog Millionaire is this year's Little Miss Sunshine, and I would argue it's probably Benjamin Button's toughest competition for Best Picture - but I don't think it'll get it.
  • Kudos to the Academy for recognizing the strikingly funny and surprisingly moving In Bruges for Best Original Screenplay - this anti-PC little Irish movie is really quite fantastic, and carries an unexpected amount of weight.
  • Nearly the entire cast of Doubt received a nomination, yet the director gets shut out?
  • Wall-E scores 6 nominations, and is probably the best example of why the Academy shouldn't have a separate Best Animated Feature category, as it would've surely been in the running for Best Picture otherwise.
  • The Dark Knight doesn't get a Best Picture nomination despite rampant speculation that it would, but it's a lock in two categories: the late Heath Ledger for Best Supporting Actor and Wally Pfister for Best Cinematography (not only was it a beautiful movie to look at, but it was the first feature film to shoot with IMAX cameras.

I'm sure more musings will come later, but for now mark Feb 22 on your calendar to find out who takes home the prizes.