Welcome back Popsters! Yes, I realize I was M.I.A. for the majority of March, that was actually the longest break we’ve ever taken at Pop Bitez in the two years that we’ve been up and online. Sadly, the break wasn’t really planned and I’d love to tell you I was off on a glorious and exotic vacation but the truth is, I’ve been having some health issues lately that required professional attention and are still, as of today, rather mysterious and undiagnosed. On top of that, I’ve also been grieving and struggling with the loss of my dog and, consequently, my best friend of 7 1/2 years. To say that 2012 is off to a shit start for me would be an understatement to say the least.
Of course you didn’t come here today to hear all about my personal problems, I only offer this info as an explanation for my sudden disappearance.
Much of today’s column is made up of mini- reviews I had originally planned to share last month, we’ve got A LOT to cover, so without further yada, yada, yada, let’s get this party started.
Directed by- Michael Dowse
Screenplay- Jay Baruchel & Evan Goldberg, based on a novel by Adam Frattasio & Doug Smith
Cast- Sean William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill and Liev Schreiber
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ out of 5
I was more than a little surprised by Goon. I’ve always been a big fan of sports flicks and this is easily one of the best I’ve seen in several years. After viewing the trailer, my first impression of this film was not a positive one, I had made up my mind that this was going to be a mindless update and variation of Slapshot, (the greatest hockey flick of all time!) While I understand there is a method to the madness of marketing and I can appreciate the bottom line efforts to get the butts in the seats, Goon is a much better movie than I would have ever expected from the dumb attempts at comedy featured in the preview.
The film is “based on a true story” and centers on the almost accidental hockey career of Doug Glatt (Sean William Scott). Growing up Glatt was labeled as an outcast by his brainy family, but in true underdog fashion, he overcame some incredibly long odds and went on to lead a team of under performing misfits to semi-pro hockey glory, by beating the crap out of everything (and pretty much everyone) that stood in his way.
As you might expect, Goon at times is bloody and violent but it also happens to be pretty damn funny and, dare I say it, heartwarming. What saves Goon from becoming the cliche’ tripe I originally suspected it might be is the big ol’ heart in the middle of the whole thing, surprisingly much of the credit for that heart goes to Sean William Scott, best known as “Stifler” in the American Pie flicks and also for his countless goofy buddy comedies like Role Models and Dude, Where’s My Car? Williams really shines in the role of the simple minded but lovable hockey oaf and gives the kind of performance that may eventually lead to more diverse roles for the actor. Other stand out performances include Alison Pill ( Milk, Midnight in Paris) as Glatt’s love interest Eva and Liev Schreiber as the goon’s idol, mentor and, inevitably, his temporary nemesis. Oddly enough, the character that comes closest to feeling like a left over cliche’ from a hundred other buddy flicks is that of Glatt’s best friend, played by Jay Baruchel (Tropic Thunder, Knocked Up), who also happens to share screenwriting credit with Evan Goldberg. It’s a shame Baruchel missed the chance to write himself a better role, that opportunity doesn’t come along very often for most actors.
Goon is one of my favorite films of the year so far and I strongly recommend you catch it when you have the chance. The Film opened in theaters on 3/30 and is currently available to watch on demand through Amazon & iTunes for 6.99
The Whale (2011)
Directors- Suzanne Chisholm, Michael Parfit
Executive Producers- Ryan Reynolds, Scarlett Johansson, Suzanne Chisholm, Eric Desatnik
Narrated by Ryan Reynolds
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ out of five
While attending the 2012 Sedona International Film Festival I was lucky enough to catch a screening of the new documentary The Whale.
The film is the true story of a young killer whale nicknamed Luna, who makes friends with people after he gets separated from his family on the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. As rambunctious and surprising as a visitor from another planet, Luna endears himself to humans with his determination to make contact, which leads to laughter, conflict and unexpected consequences.
As is the case with many of my favorite documentaries I found myself amazed by some of the perfect, cinematic moments caught on film by the crew, call it fate or just damn lucky, they were truly fortunate and blessed to have the cameras rolling when they did.
There are some powerful debates at the center of The Whale that you may find yourself struggling with throughout the course of the film; when interacting with a species other than our own, what is right and what is wrong? How much do we really know about them, what are the assumptions? What are the rules and facts and how did we come to these rules and facts in the first place?
The Whale is a beautiful and heartbreaking examination of our mingling with the animal kingdom that asks all the right questions and challenges you to come to your own decisions and answers. What do we know and how do we know it? What do we feel and why do we feel it?
The Whale has various screenings scheduled in several cities in the coming months and should be making it’s way to DVD in the very near future, I strongly suggest you seek it out.
Go HERE for a list of upcoming times and locations.
With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story (2010)
Directors- Terry Dougas, Nikki Frakes, Will Hess
♦ ♦ out of 5
With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story is another doc I happened to catch at the Sedona International Film Festival this year and, sadly, this one just didn’t live up to my nerdy expectations.
I’ve probably been a fan of Marvel Comics and, subsequently, Stan Lee, since I was five or six years old. When I was a wee lad the walls of my bedroom were covered with posters and stickers of Spiderman, The Hulk, Captain America and The Fantastic Four, so you can imagine how geeked up I was to see this title on the schedule for the film fest. Were my expectations too high? Maybe. Did it come close to meeting those expectations? Not by a country mile.
Aside from some fun graphics, this flick is a dud. The filmmakers gloss over or completely ignore some of the more fascinating aspects of Lee’s rise and fall (and rise) and the film ends so abruptly many in attendance weren’t even sure it was over until the credits started rolling. Did they run out of time or money? Who knows, all I can tell you is, a documentary featuring such a legendary icon should not have made my butt go numb in my seat, and Lord did it ever.
There is a great doc to be made about the life and times of Stan The Man and I hope someday to see it. With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story ain’t it, ‘Nuff said.
The Hunter (2011)
Director- Daniel Netheim
Cast- Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Frances O’Connor
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ out of 5
If it weren’t for Video On Demand I might have completely missed this awesome Australian import, which recently received 11 AACTA nominations, (Australia’s equivalent to the Academy Awards), and took home the awards for Best Cinematography and Original Score.
The Hunter is the story of a mercenary (Willem Dafoe) who is sent from Europe to the Tasmanian wilderness by a mysterious biotech company to hunt for the last Tasmanian tiger.
Whenever Willem Dafoe shows up in junk like Mr. Bean’s Holiday or Daybreakers I take heart because I know those bigger pay days will eventually free the actor’s time up to make more interesting, lower budgeted films.
As far as I’m concerned the less you know about this film the better it will be for you when you eventually see it, so I’m not going to get into the plot too much here. What I will tell you is the acting, across the board, is excellent and includes great performances from Dafoe, Sam Neill (Jurassic Park, The Piano) and Frances O’Connor ( Mansfield Park, The Importance of Being Earnest). The film is slow but perfectly paced and, at times, quite poetic and haunting. Director Daniel Netheim seems to have been influenced, at least in part, by the work of Terrence Malick (Tree of Life, Days of Heaven) and his mastery of tone and storytelling makes The Hunter a compelling, profound and almost hypnotic journey into the souls of men and the mysteries of nature.
Director/ Writer: Alex Stapleton
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ out of 5
Now THIS is everything the Stan Lee documentary should have been! Corman’s World is a fun and illuminating look at the life and genius of filmmaker Roger Corman, (did I just use “genius” and “Roger Corman” together in the same sentence? Yep!)
In his long and varied career Corman has directed more than 50 films and produced over 300 and, aside from being known for B-movie classics like Little Shop of Horrors, The Fall of the House of Usher, Death Race 2000 and Piranha, he is without equal when it comes to discovering and fostering new talent in Hollywood. In his 60 years as a director and producer Corman has been responsible for giving early career breaks to a stunningly long list of who’s who in Tinsel Town that includes; Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, John Sayles, Martin Scorsese, Curtis Hanson, Robert Towne, Jonathan Demme, Joe Dante, Peter Bogdanovitch, Dennis Hopper and David Carradine. He was also the first producer to let a post-Opie Ron Howard direct his very first film, the drive-in classic Grand Theft Auto.
This excellent documentary is loaded with great anecdotes and stories told by the many people who have worked with Corman and includes more than a few surprises, as an example, I never knew Roger Corman was the first distributor of “Art House” films in the U.S. and that he is solely responsible for introducing the films of Fellini, Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman to American audiences. Whoa!
Near the end of the film Jack Nicholson actually breaks down while talking about how important Corman has been in his life and how grateful and fortunate he is for the opportunities Corman gave him. Just like Jack, as filmgoers we will forever be indebted to Roger Corman, there simply isn’t another person in Hollywood who has had more of an influence on our culture and films in the second half of the 20th century and, without him, it’s possible we may have never seen a Raging Bull, Easy Rider, Avatar or Godfather.
Corman’s World is currently available on DVD in all of the usual places, watch it now, if you love film you’re going to love this doc!
• Sound Of My Voice
What’s the best way to wet the public appetite for a low budget indie these days? Well, in the case of Sound Of My Voice, you put the first ten minutes online for free!
The film has played several film festivals recently and is generating a lot of positive buzz, judging from this brief taste I can see why. Sound Of My Voice is scheduled to open on 4/27 and I for one can not wait to see it! Take a look at the first ten and let me what you think!
• James Cameron Goes Deep
So, what do you do after you break all the records and become the director/ producer of the top two highest grossing films of all time, (Titanic, Avatar)? For James Cameron, it’s a no-brainer, you just boldly go where no man has gone before! Not outer space mind you, but rather the deepest parts of the ocean right here on earth, the inner space if you will.
Last week Cameron was the first man to travel solo in his custom made sub to The Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the earth, which he says is as bleak and as barren as the moon.
The descent took roughly two hours and the legendary filmmaker spent three hours on the abyss conducting his scientific exploration. His return trip took only 70 minutes, which he later described as “one heckuva ride!”
The expedition was designed for Cameron to spend six hours submerged collecting samples and videos but his mission was cut short due to a hydraulic fluid leak that coated the window of the sub’s pilot sphere and obscured his view. “It’s a prototype vehicle so it’s gonna take some time to iron out the bugs”, he told National Geographic shortly after returning. “The important thing is that we have a vehicle that is a robust platform…it gets us there safely, the lights work, the cameras work and hopefully next time the hydraulics will work.”
WOW, is all I can say! I imagine it would take a lot to make Steven Spielberg feel like a lazy, shlub but I’m guessing this story probably just did it.
Ron Burgundy is returning to the Whale’s Vagina!
In case ya missed the news last week, legendary newsman Ron Burgundy stopped by Conan to announce a sequel to Anchorman has just been given the greenlight! I don’t know about you but this news has me trapped in a glass case of emotion!
Thanks for stopping by Popsters, stay classy and have a great week! Until next time, Cheers!- Scott