By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, January 18, 2013 - 0 Comments
He’s back. Now that his marriage and political fortunes have gone up in smoke, Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a game attempt to re-ignite his career as a Hollywood action hero with his first lead role in a decade. In The Last Stand, The Governator re-enters the fray as a kind of unplugged Terminator, an old-school sheriff in a sleepy Arizona border town who ends up battling a fugitive Mexican drug lord in an armed stand-off that unleashes more firepower than the Alamo. Landing in the thick of the current debate on gun control, the timing couldn’t be worse, especially with Arnie using a school bus as a lethal weapon, along with a vintage arsenal of big, bad-ass guns that turn the sheriff’s one-horse town into an NRA fantasy camp.
The Last Stand‘s formulaic scenario, of a crusty lawman hauling himself out of semi-retirement, could be seen as Arnie’s Unforgiven, but with way more cheese and no gravitas. At best, it’s a guilty pleasure. Continue…
By Jessica Allen - Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:17 PM - 0 Comments
We expected some of the boys, but got Kirsten Dunst. Fine by us
By Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 9:44 AM - 0 Comments
Much of the international press corps in Cannes was mystified this morning when a grinning Viggo Mortensen unveiled a large Montreal Canadiens banner, something he tends to do at every photo opportunity—the star who wants to be a fan. It was one of the few cavalier moments at an ultra serious press conference, where Brazilian director Walter Salles held court with a phalanx of seven actors and three producers from On the Road, his adaptation of the Jack Kerouac classic, which premieres here tonight. Studiously researched for eight years, and faithfully rendered onscreen, this loving ode to On the Road must be one of the most mature, responsible films ever made about drugs, drink and debauchery. The press conference was infused by a similar reverence as moderator Henri Behar dutifully asked everyone on the dais how their research into Kerouac’s real-life characters had affected their work.
Many of the journalists just wanted to hear Kristen Stewart talk about braving her first nude scene, and sharing the Cannes spotlight with her Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson (Cosmopolis). But by the time everyone had reported on their homework, and both Salles and Mortensen had given long, earnest discourses on the fidelity of the film, there was time for just a few quick questions from the media horde. Fortunately, someone did ask Stewart how it felt to to bare her body for the camera as a sexually liberated woman after being restrained by the abstinence of Twilight—although the moderator cut off the questioner as he dared to mention Pattinson. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Saturday, May 17, 2008 at 8:20 PM - 0 Comments
One of the reasons critics get addicted to Cannes is the rush of seeing something thing they’ve never seen before, an experience that’s increasingly rare in the weekly grind of the multiplex. These things aren’t always pretty, or even worthwhile. Tonight I saw Serbis (Service). a shabby piece of video verite from the Philippines, which has being inexplicably placed in the main competition. Directed by Brillante Mendoza, it’s set in a dilapidated movie theatre that plays old soft-corn porn, but which mostly serves as a site for gay sex and prostitution—a grindhouse, as Tarantino would say. The irony is that the name of the cinema on the marquee is FAMILY, and that this forlorn theatre/brothel is, in fact, a family-run joint, the dysfunctional home to three generations trying to make ends meet. While hustlers ply their trade in the darkened theatre, a mother does laundry and a small boy wheels around on a tricycle and spies on his teenage sister, who preens naked in a front of a mirror, practicing romantic moves. There are interludes of graphic sex in the film, which is not uncommon on the taboo-busting frontier of a film festival. The blow job is the new French kiss. But the film does show us something we never seen before [warning: sentence contains adult situations!]: a young man, engaged in what what appears to be unsimulated sex with a young woman, asks to shift positions, because of a large, painful boil on his butt—which (brace yourself) he later bursts using the mouth of an empty bottle. Whether by coincidence or design, this year’s programming at Cannes seems to be developing have a daily thematic bent. The festival kicked off with a series of movies about incarceration. Today we saw two films about dysfunctional working class families struggling to survive in large urban centres, while crime threatens to engulf their children’s lives. The other example was Brazil’s Linha de Passe, which is set in San Paulo. Directed by Walter Salles (Central Station, Motorcycle Diaries), it’s far superior to Service. But there are some uncanny parallels. Both films are kinetic, neo-realist dramas about a crumbling family tethered to a stubborn matriarch. And, weirdly, in both films there are scenes of sons taking charging by using a plunger to try clear a plugged drain—literal instances of kitchen sink drama. But really there’s no comparison between the two films. Salles has made a gripping, if un-commercial, drama, exploring faith and desperation with mix-and-match themes of religion, soccer and race. The peformances—all but one by first-time actors—are magnetic. The long-sufering matriarch is a pregnant single mother who works as a maid and smokes and worries. Her children include an aspiring soccer star angling for a break who figures he’s washed up at 18, a gas station attendant devoted to street-corner evangelism, a motorcycle courier who gambles his life by threading between transport trucks, and sunny young kid who rides the bus all day, dreaming of being the driver. But Linha de Passe’s most haunting character is the city of San Paulo itself, a city of 20 million. We saw glimpses of it in Blindness. Here it plays a central role: a gray, high-rise landscape of traffic and concrete that seems to extend into infinity, alien and anonymous. Another case of world cinema showing us a place we never imagined existed.