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Avatar Reviewed

Posted by film On December - 22 - 2009

AvatarAvatar
Directed by James Cameron
20th Century Fox, 2009

By Sean Kelly

It’s been twelve years since James Cameron last directed a feature film. I suppose that after Titanic made over a billion dollars and won a ton of Oscars, Cameron was free to do what he wanted and he chose to make a series of underwater documentaries (two of which were made for IMAX 3D). Cameron has finally returned to features with Avatar and the first question one has to ask is, “Was it worth the wait?”

When it comes down to it, I would say the answer is yes — though I wouldn’t rush off and say that it’s the best film Cameron has done. I thought that the film was good enough that I would list it as one of  my ten favourite films of the year; however, it would probably be somewhere in the bottom half of the list. Read the rest of this entry »

Up in the Air Reviewed

Posted by film On December - 15 - 2009

up-in-the-air-smUp in the Air
Directed by Jason Reitman
Paramount Pictures, 2009

By Sean Kelly

When your father is Ivan Reitman, the director of Ghostbusters, you’ve been handed quite a challenge to step out from his shadow. However, Jason Reitman seems to have found a niche in making some intriguing character studies. In Thank You for Smoking we were given a sympathetic portrayal of a tobacco lobbyist. In Juno we learned about the unexpected challenges of teen pregnancy. Now, with Up in the Air, we follow a guy who flies around the country and fires people on behalf of companies that are too scared to do it themselves.

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is completely at home with life on the road. With his schedule of firing people and making motivational speeches, he barely spends time at his own home, and is well on his way to becoming only the seventh person to reach ten million frequent flyer miles. Ryan even manages to meet a fellow frequent traveller named Alex (Vera Farmiga) with the same view on life and they quickly begin an affair.

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2012 Reviewed

Posted by film On November - 27 - 2009

20122012
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Columbia Pictures, 2009

By Sean Kelly

Have you heard? Apparently the calendar for the long-extinct Mayan civilization is supposed to end on December 21, 2012. Of course, this just has to mean that this is when the world is supposed to end. There are, like, millions of books on the subject that give reasons ranging from polar-reversing solar flares to Planet X crashing into the Earth. If there are books on it, then it must be true, right?

It seems that every decade or two, conspiracy theorists come up with a new cause of the apocalypse (it was only a decade ago when we feared Y2K). While it can hoped that this is all just crazed speculation, it does give disaster film master Roland Emmerich perfect material for his magnum opus.

Emmerich has found a niche in blowing up the world in different ways, whether it is by alien invaders (Independence Day), mutated lizards (Godzilla), or the environment (The Day After Tomorrow). Of those three, I would say that 2012 is probably stylistically the most similar to The Day After Tomorrow, except on a much larger scale — as can be guessed by the film’s 158-minute running time. Read the rest of this entry »

A Christmas Carol Reviewed

Posted by film On November - 22 - 2009

christmas_carolA Christmas Carol
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Walt Disney Pictures, 2009

By Rachel West

With the early November release of A Christmas Carol, the Christmas season is upon us sooner than ever. This faithful yet novel adaptation is a sure-fire way to bring in the holiday spirit, even if your neighbours still have their rotting jack o’lanterns displayed on their porch.

A tried-and-true story, adapted onto screens big and small over the years, a simple title search on IMDB reveals that there are over 35 filmed versions of the Charles Dickens’ classic, from the made-for-TV movie A Diva’s Christmas Carol (sadly, I’ve seen it), to childhood favourite Mickey’s Christmas Carol, to gems like Scrooged. You may think you’ve seen it all before, know the dialogue by heart, and another adaptation is superfluous at best, but this time, the film is in show-stopping 3D.

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The Box Reviewed

Posted by film On November - 20 - 2009

the_boxThe Box
Directed by Richard Kelly
Warner Bros, 2009

By Sean Kelly (no relation)

It would be a bit of an understatement to say that Richard Kelly has had a bit of a bumpy ride on the road to making his first major studio film. His first film Donnie Darko had a nearly non-existent theatrical release (it probably didn’t help that the film was released about a month after 9/11 and involved a plane engine falling onto a house). However, the film went on to become one of the first cult hits of the decade, and my personal favourite, and I wasn’t alone in looking forward to a follow-up.

The follow-up didn’t come fast enough. For the longest time Kelly was set to write and direct last year’s Knowing as his second film, before it moved to Alex Proyas. After five years (and taking a screenwriting job for 2005’s Domino), Kelly finally returned with his second film Southland Tales. The general consensus is that Southland marked a sophomore slump for Kelly, though I dug the film. Read the rest of this entry »

Zombieland Reviewed

Posted by film On November - 13 - 2009

ZOMBIELANDZombieland
Directed by Ruben Fleischer
Columbia Pictures, 2009

By Sean Kelly

According to Zombieland, there are over 30 rules you have to follow in order to survive a zombie apocalypse. The film then goes on to spare no effort in comically reminding you of these rules with giant blocky text every time one of them is followed (or not).

This is probably the first straight-out zombie comedy since 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, which was apparently the film that inspired the filmmakers to do Zombieland. But unlike Edgar Wright’s film, which aimed to be a serious zombie horror film with comedic situations, this film is pure comedy all the way.

The film centres around Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), who is travelling across the US searching for a safe haven from the zombies, who have all but taken over the country. He has survived so far by strictly following the aforementioned rules. These include pieces of advice such as being wary while in washrooms (apparently zombies like eating you when you’re doing #2), making sure you stay in good shape (with all the running you have to do), and not to hesitate in making sure a zombie’s dead by doing a headshot. Read the rest of this entry »

Where the Wild Things Are Reviewed

Posted by film On November - 6 - 2009

wtwtaWhere The Wild Things Are
Director: Spike Jonze
Warner Bros Pictures

By Caesar Martini

Where The Wild Things Are (WWTA) is a movie adaptation of a much-beloved book by Maurice Sendak; a book so popular and beloved that I am apparently the only person in North America who has not read it. I found this somewhat confusing; in short order, I discovered that every single person I know, even people I’ve grown up with, have intimate knowledge and fondness for something I barely knew existed. It’s like every child got a copy of this book for their third birthday except me, because my parents were swarthy foreigners and books won’t stitch up those wallets, boy. The extent of my knowledge of this story previous to my seeing the movie is that I knew it was about a place, possibly where some wild things might be.

But I digress. First, let’s get all the boring praise out of the way: Wild Things looks great. It’s filmed beautifully, with great backgrounds and scenery, and the monsters in it all look fantastically realistic while managing to strongly resemble the creatures that Sendak drew in the original story. There’s a sense of real care and attention on the part of the filmmakers, who demonstrate they wanted to do justice to something they felt was meaningful. And that’s it. There’s not much more I feel I can say about Wild Things that’s positive, except that all the Wild Things look like higher budget versions of Sweetums from The Muppet Show. Read the rest of this entry »

Paranormal Activity Reviewed

Posted by film On October - 14 - 2009

paranormalactivityParanormal Activity
Directed by Oren Peli
Paramount Pictures, 2009

By Sean Kelly

I first found out about Paranormal Activity in mid-September when I was busy with the Toronto Film Festival and not paying too much attention to the movie news sites I usually frequent.  However, I was intrigued when I read about this supposedly terrifying independent horror film that people were calling the next Blair Witch Project.  I even read a story about Steven Spielberg watching a screener of the film and then, after an incident where his bedroom door apparently locked on its own, returning the film in a garbage bag for fear it was haunted.

The film was initially given a very limited release, but movie fans had the chance to demand online to have the film expanded to their city.  Toronto won an expansion and I decided to risk being stranded downtown to check out the limited midnight screening of the film. Read the rest of this entry »

The Blair Witch Project: Ten Years Later

Posted by film On October - 13 - 2009

blairwitch1 By Sean Kelly

There is currently a lot of buzz going around for the film Paranormal Activity, out now in limited release, which some are pegging as “the next Blair Witch Project”.  It’s kind of congruent, since that film is currently in the midst of celebrating its tenth anniversary (having been released July 16th, 1999).  As a Halloween-related feature for October, I thought I would reminisce on the legacy of The Blair Witch Project and what has made it so successful.

It would probably be agreed that the sensation around The Blair Witch Project was built upon hype.  The directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez created a detailed mythology on the legend of the Blair Witch (you can still read that mythology on the official website) and the film was marketed as being the actual found footage of students that disappeared while making a documentary based on the mythology. Read the rest of this entry »

Gamer Reviewed

Posted by film On October - 10 - 2009

GamerPosterGamer
Directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
Lionsgate, 2009

By Sean Kelly

It seems that the directing duo of Neveldine and Taylor are trying to make a name for themselves with over-the-top action films. After the somewhat disappointing Crank: High Voltage, they return with the less disappointing Gamer.

The story is set in a world where the top new videogame is Slayers, in which players, through mind-control technology, control real-life death-row inmates in a multi-player death match. If a con makes it through 30 rounds without getting their head blown off, then they are granted a total pardon. This is a variation of a premise found in films such as Running Man, Battle Royale, and The Condemned. The film also attempts to comment on current videogame culture (especially since one of the players portrayed in the film is morbidly obese).

The central character of the film is Kable (Gerard Butler), who is only three matches away from being granted his freedom. However, this may go against the plans of the creator of Slayers (as well as another Sims-like game called Society), Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall), who seems to have bigger plans for the mind-control technology than just entertainment for teens.

Like Crank: High Voltage, the film was full of ugly, “in-your-face” cinematography and gratuitous content. In fact, some of the stuff in the film was so bad that I actually saw people walking out of the theatre.

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The Informant! Reviewed

Posted by film On October - 5 - 2009

theinformantThe Informant!
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Warner Bros. Pictures, 2009

By Brian Last

Director Steven Soderbergh and Matt Damon team up for what seems like the umpteenth time for Soderbergh’s latest white-collar-crime drama/comedy. Mark Whitacre (Damon) is the vice president of ADM, a company that has developed a product called lysine. He takes it upon himself to tip off the Feds (Scott Bakula and Joel McHale) about a global price-fixing scandal that ADM has put themselves right in the middle of. What starts out as a simple tip-off turns into two-and-a-half years as their informant, living two lives and lying his face off.

We begin with what appears to be a man of strong convictions pursuing his earnest goal to do what is right. But this is in fact the story of a man who has let his greed take over. Whitacre builds up so many lies that they eventually collapse on him and he becomes public enemy #1. His ambitions to be president of the company blind him and lead to delusions about himself and where he is going in his life.

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Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans Reviewed

Posted by film On October - 2 - 2009

badlieutenantBad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Directed by Werner Herzog
Edward R. Pressman Film / Millenium Films

By Rachel West

I love Nicolas Cage. If you’ve read my review of Knowing, you’ll remember that I am the one person who enjoyed Bangkok Dangerous, paid money to see Next, and will line up to see Kick-Ass in 2010. My love for Nicolas Cage doesn’t stem from his resume of work, because, let’s face it, he hasn’t been in a good movie since 2002’s Adaptation. I love Nicolas Cage because you never know what you’re going to get from him. He’s often over-the-top and crazy with his dead-eye gaze, spouting one liners in a halting manner, frequently while wielding a gun. Cage seems to perfect this persona in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans since it has all of that and more.

A remake in name only, Bad Lieutenant is a wild ride through the seedy underbelly of post-Katrina New Orleans, and Cage is our tour guide, steering us through crime, guns, drugs, and bad cops. Promoted to lieutenant for acts of bravery during Hurricane Katrina, Terrence (Cage) is seemingly a rather bad cop — he snorts cocaine on the job, steals from the seized inventory locker at the police station, takes sexual bribes, dates a prostitute, and deals drugs with thugs. All of this and yet you can’t help but like the guy and even empathize with him. As he and partner Stevie (Val Kilmer) investigate the drug related murders of a family of fresh immigrants, Terrence begins to spiral more deeply into his drug addiction. At a roadblock with suspects, Terrence begins to befriend them for financial gain to pay off his crippling gambling debts. Through a series of plot turns, Terrence has the chance to redeem himself and become one of the good guys, and the crux of the film hangs on his decision.

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MONDO is a non-profit, weekly, Toronto-based, online magazine that focuses on arts, culture, and humour. We’re interested in art of all kinds (music, theatre, visual art, film, comics, and video games) and the pop culture that we inhabit.The copyright on all MONDO magazine content belongs to the author. If you would like to pay them for more content, please do. To contact MONDO please email us at editor@mondomagazine.net

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