DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: March 2013

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Killing Them Softly

Andrew Dominik’s small scale crime saga, an uncomplicated story of a heist of a poker game and the hit man hired to track down the perpetrators, exists mostly as an exercise in style. But under Dominic’s superlative vision, the formal beauty of its imagery and his stone cold emotional tone is inseparable from the story. And look out for the best supporting performance of the year that won’t get recognized, James Gandolfini as a prostitute-addicted self-destructive hit man.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Green Lantern

It would be overkill to beat this failed franchise starter down again, but the fact is Green Lantern was clearly scraping the bottom of the barrel of the old school comic book superheroes. The story of an Air Force test pilot chosen to be a member of an intergalactic policing squad to fight off their encroaching arch enemy from taking over Earth should have stayed on the page.

Green Lantern (2011) dir. Martin Campbell
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard

By Alan Bacchus

The over-ambitious intergalactic plotting and mondo special effects sequences sink any attempt to humanize this story. This was the same problem with Thor, which mostly took place in another universe, thus lowering the stakes on Earth and reducing our ability to identify with any of the conflicts at play.

That said, in Green Lantern the filmmakers make no allusions that this is "realism." While more successful films like Iron Man, Spider-Man and Batman have a shred of plausibility, Green Lantern is pure fantasy. In fact, in the Blu-ray special feature "focus points," the filmmakers and actors look genuinely confident that they're doing great work, a hubris derived from their honest integrity for the tone of the original comic.

This universe is played for serious and, if anything, it's actually refreshing to be saved from another self-aware superhero. Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is a straight-up old-fashioned superhero transplanted directly from the pages of the comic, a square jawed jock heavily flawed and in need of inspiration and emotional cleansing, which he receives from his gifted superpowers. Reynolds' warm, accessible personality is ideal for this role, but sadly he's subdued by the grandiosity of the story and the excessive technical tricks.

Visually there's also a strong whiff of Battlefield Earth: the green cinematography and elaborate alien creatures serving as key supporting characters, in particular Peter Sarsgaard's enormous head, which recalls John Travolta's ludicrous headgear in the L. Ron Hubbard flop.

But, really, the commonality is the uninspired direction, in this case from Martin Campbell, who fails to make us care for his characters or excite us in any way. The Blu-ray special features comprehensively break down the origins of the comic, the film and the key aspects of making this huge effort. Ironically, I found myself interested more in the disconnect between the enthusiasm of the artists involved than the dismal result on screen.

This review first appeared on Exclaim.ca

Monday, 25 March 2013


In the long history of Asian genre directors crossing over into English-language films, Chan-wook Parks’ Stoker, a deliriously directed noirsih thriller, is the cream of the crop. Unlike this year’s other Korean-directed thriller Jee-woon Kim’s The Last Stand, Park’s devilish film about nebbish teenager disturbed by the arrival of her long lost Uncle bristles with cinematic ingenuity and with a kind of inspired unconventionality not seen since the bombastic heyday of Brian De Palma.

Friday, 22 March 2013

The Sugarland Express

Pauline Kael famously remarked about The Sugarland Express that it was “…one of the best directorial debuts ever.” How prophetic Ms. Kael was at the time. Revisiting Steven Spielberg’s first theatrical feature is a wonderful experience. At only 27 years old and already with four years of extensive television directing experience and one of the best made-for-TV films ever made (Duel), Sugarland was a natural extension from Spielberg's previous work.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The critical tepidness to this picture is disappointing to me, the newest Hobbit film a natural extension to The Lord of the Rings trilogy is in fact a better film than any of the three original, critically acclaimed, and Oscar winning films. Peter Jackson miraculously manages to find the same pulse of the original series but hangs his startling visuals and impeccable fantasy action filmmaking skills onto a stronger and more accessible story as well as casting his characters with stronger actors.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Life of Pi

A cinematic Moby Dick of sorts, Ang Lee’s celebrated adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel is indeed an incredible high seas adventure film of one man's battles against the power of the ocean and a beast. The technical achievement of rendering the isolation and conflict between an Indian boy and a hostile Bengal tiger aboard a lifeboat on the Indian Ocean is out of this world and worth the price of admission. Bringing this boat down, though not sinking it, is the sloppy and awkward bookend scenes in the present, a storytelling challenge which unfortunately Ang Lee and all the money given to this film just couldn't solve.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Chronicle of a Summer

Chronicle of a Summer, a unique collaboration of sociologists and filmmakers interviewing a number of Parisian working class men and women discussing themes personal and political, is a treasure of documentary cinema. Made in 1960 in Paris, not only do we get to see the rich flavour of the romantic city in the 60’s, Morin and Rouch’s documentary shows us the thrill of classical cinema verite at its most relevant and revealing.

Thursday, 14 March 2013


After suffering through two thirds of this dreadfully navel gazing idiosyncratic Noah Baumbach comedy/drama, the inspired final act elevates the film from a category of detest to a smirking nod of admiration and a golf clap.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Chungking Express

The opening credit in this film belongs to Quentin Tarantino's distribution arm Rolling Thunder Pictures, in his usual font, Though it's thematically and aesthetically different than QT'swork, it's easy to see why this piqued Tarantino's interest. Both females leads are elusive hip chicks, not unlike Uma Thurman in both Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, Pam Grier and Melanie Laurent and others. Ultimately we could derive this type of character from Jean-Luc Godard in Vivre Sa Vie, Anna Karina, the waify bohemian prostitute who was so darn sexy in that demure sweater.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

Kathryn Bigelow’s sprawling Bin Laden hunt picture is a spotty affair, a film sectioned off into often disjointed segments over the course of ten years only finding it’s rhythm in the second half of the picture. The rivetting climax is a masterwork of military procedural execution, easily smoothing over the rocky 2 hours which came before it. Zero Dark Thirty thus resounds as both a conversation piece and a rip-roaring action film.

Monday, 11 March 2013

It's Always Fair Weather

The rarely-discussed follow up to 'Singin’ in the Rain' looks great half a century later, and arguably every bit as good as more renowned Kelly classic, including  'An American in Paris' and 'On the Town' - a marvellously lavish piece of cinematic spectacle featuring Gene Kelly dancing on roller skates, some early triptych split screen work, and big, bold Cinemascope.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Schindler's List

Steven Spielberg’s celebrated Schindler’s List, his comeback film of sorts, seemed to validate the already successful filmmaker with his first Oscar. Its massive success, universal acclaim and mondo awards, 20 years on, as usual, results in increased scrutiny and re-examination. It’s never enough to let go of a massive success without reinspection periodically for cracks and flaws. Schindler’s remarkably survives the ravages time, for the most part the best parts of Spielberg represented and though some of the worst parts rear their head occasionally, it remains a unique cinematic experience.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Kramer vs. Kramer

Benton’s soft Oscar winner from 1979 was the definitive film on divorce at the time consciously turning the familiar story of marital dysfunction around toward the male, Dustin Hoffman who finds himself sacrificing his career as a single dad. The soft focus cinematography and even softer fluffy haircuts notwithstanding, it's still a robust family drama, though shamefully inferior to the year's more memorable nominees Apocalypse Now, All That Jazz, Manhattan, Alien and others.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Intouchables

This French hit, the story of a rich paraplegic white man who forms an unlikely friendship with an unrefined black caretaker/assistant is the stuff Stanley Kramer movies, TV after school specials, a number of politically correct 80’s sitcoms or perhaps even a cinematic version of the McCartney/Stevie Wonder song, Ebony and Ivory. That said, the dated racial and class characterizations and on-the-nose sentimentality are evened out by the genuinely warm and authentic performance trump of Omar Sy.

Monday, 4 March 2013

The Town

I admire Ben Affleck's comeback story as a doldrums actor turned respected director more than his actual films. Argo was a good film, overpraised for sure, but a leap above his two previous Boston crime films. The Town, loved by many, only generates admiration from me for being slightly better than Gone Baby Gone but mostly frustration for being aesthetically tepid, uninspired and simply adequate.