Cannes Snobbery

Some people think that Netflix is saving the movie industry. Others think it’s killing it. I think neither is true, that all Netflix is is the future. Or rather, Netflix is now. The movie industry is changing and has changed. Some directors insist that their art can only be experienced on a big screen, others are embracing the flexibility that comes with a Netflix carte blanche. But Cannes, a major French film festival, has inserted itself into the discourse, reluctantly agreeing to include two Netflix titles in this year’s lineup, but insisting that next year’s rules will be different and only movies intended for a theatrical release will earn slots in their programming.

Amazon also earned boos from critics at its Cannes screening, this despite the fact that Amazon does partner up to bring some of its titles to the cinema, like last year’s Oscar contender, Manchester By The Sea. This year Amazon brought Wonderstruck to Cannes by the acclaimed director of Carol, Todd Haynes. Of Amazon, Haynes noted “The film division at Amazon is made up of true cineastes who love movies and really want to try and provide opportunity for independent film visions to find their footing in a vastly shifting market. They love cinema.”

Netflix makes movies and series for its at-home audience who pay a subscription fee that includes original content. At TIFF 2016, I saw 2 Netflix films (Mascots and Blue Jay) and found them to be just as worthy as any other content on offer. At this year’s Oscars, Netflix garnered a nomination for Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th, and a win for its short documentary, The White Helmets. Traditional or not, Netflix movies do hold up.

Cannes jury president Pedro Almodovar doesn’t like it and made his position clear with this opening statement: “I personally do not conceive, not only the Palme d’Or, any other prize being given to a film and not being able to see this film on a big screen. The size [of the screen] should not be smaller than the chair on which you’re sitting. It should not be part of your everyday setting. You must feel small and humble in front of the image that’s here.” Fellow jury member Will Smith clashed with him on this, defending the streaming service “In my house, Netflix has been nothing but an absolute benefit. They get to see films they absolutely wouldn’t have seen. Netflix brings a great connectivity. There are movies that are not on a screen within 8,000 miles of them. They get to find those artists.” And that’s true: Netflix is a boone to indie gems and hard-to-find documentaries. It also allows people who find the cost of theatre-going restrictive to watch movies at home for a reasonable price. Of course, Netflix just so happens to be the distributor of Smith’s next big-budget movie, Bright.

And that’s the thing about Netflix today: it’s going after the big guns. For its first-ever Cannes screening, Netflix chose Okja, a film by the South Korean director of Snowpiercer, Bong Joon-ho. Okja stars Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Lily Collins, and Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s no slouch. Of the controversy, Joon-ho was  typically humble: “I’m just happy he will watch this movie tonight. He can say anything—I’m fine. I loved working with Netflix. They gave me great support — the budget for this film is considerable. Giving such a budget to a director isn’t very common.” And Swinton was also quick to make light of the situation, saying “The truth is, we didn’t actually come here for prizes.” Okja received a four-minute standing ovation after its screening.

Later this festival, Netflix will screen the second of its two titles, Noah Baumback’s The Meyerowitz Stories, about a fractured family reuniting, starring Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Candice Bergen, Ben Stiller, and Netflix darling Adam Sandler.

 

 

 

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Alien: Covenant

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You always know better than the idiots in horror movies. Don’t go to an uncharted planet streaming John Denver songs to the universe. Hell, don’t go into space period! When you get to the planet, don’t trust its lone inhabitant who lives in a graveyard and conducts science experiments in a drippy cave. Especially when the results of those science experiments look suspiciously like the creepy little things that just blew up your only ride off the planet. But if not for those dumb decisions, there wouldn’t be much of a movie here, and certainly not one about Aliens with a capital A.

As the SXSW Sneak Peek hinted, the idiots in Alien: Covenant are more tolerable than most, because every bad decision leads us to a place we want to go. Ridley Scott’s playful approach here elevates Alien: Covenant above every entry in this franchise since Aliens. The bad decisions aren’t infuriating, they’re chess moves, most of which lead to another piece getting ripped apart into gooey chunks by space monsters.

Everything in this movie services the Aliens, including the speedy pace at which they burst out of people (taking only as long as needed to cause maximum carnage). Alien: Covenant felt like a Star Wars prequel in that respect, as the technology (in this case, the creatures produced by those previously mentioned science experiments) behind the Aliens seems better in the “past” than in the “future”. I suppose that’s inevitable when prequels are made 30 years later, and I was a lot more forgiving of it here that I was with Star Wars. I think that’s because in Alien: Covenant, the changes from the original rules make the movie more entertaining, while the changes in Star Wars made the movies into a CGI tutorial mixed with a boring political drama.

Above all else, Alien: Covenant is fun, and that’s because Ridley Scott and his cast (led by stellar performances by Michael Fassbender (x2) and Katherine Waterston channeling Ripley and kicking Alien ass just like Sigourney Weaver did) deliver everything this franchise’s fans could possibly have asked for. No unnecessary exposition, no extraneous plot points, just Aliens mowing down idiot after idiot.

For that, Alien: Covenant gets a score of eight chest-bursting xenomorphs out of ten.

Christine

As often happens in Hollywood, two films came out around the same time about the same subject, in this case Christine Chubbuck,  a real-life reporter who took her life during a live broadcast in the 1970s. I reviewed Kate Plays Christine previously, and didn’t much care for its treatment of the subject. I needed a breather so have only now braced myself for the second film, Christine.

And this one is better, if I’m still not entirely sure we’ve gotten to the bottom of who she was and why she did what she did. If you do research on her as I have, much has been hqdefault.jpgmade of the fact that she (played by Rebecca Hall) was 30 and horrified of it, still a boyfriendless, childless virgin. I’m sort of offended on behalf of women everywhere that this is seen by anyone as the reason for her suicide. She was a troubled woman who’d struggled with depression and had left a job and life behind elsewhere in order to ‘rebuild.’ But this new place wasn’t going much better. A year in, she pined for the news anchor (Michael C. Hall) yet pushed him away when he got near. She yearned to do important investigative reporting but the station manager insisted on a “if it bleeds, it leads” policy. She couldn’t get promoted and wasn’t being taken seriously. She lived with her mother, sometimes happily, sometimes not.

Her on-air personality was quite cheerful but she was much more socially awkward in real life. Hall portrays her as troubled and disappointed, but not depressed beyond repair. So when the suicide comes, as you know it inevitably will, it still caught me off guard. Certainly we’d need to see her mental state unravel far more before this point arrives? I was shocked by it, and am not sure if the director, Antonio Campos, is trying to tell us that perhaps she wasn’t truly suicidal, or if the story was just lacking. I can’t rule christine-rebecca-hall.jpgout the former since I’ve always found the circumstance of her death a little fishy. Before she put the gun to her head, she read out a brief statement, basically accusing the station of pushing her to do this drastic, bloody thing. She’d also prepared a statement for a colleague to read out afterward, though none did. In that, she described her actions as a “suicide attempt” and reported that she’d been taken to hospital alive but in serious condition. Had she not planned or wanted her suicide to be “successful”? We’ll never know.

The film has a yellowed look to it, no doubt added afterward to achieve a vintage feel authentic to a 1970s era. It’s also well-acted by both Halls (no relation), with Rebecca Hall adopting a lower and more formulated voice, and Michael C. Hall slipping into a shiny-haired broadcaster’s charm. Although I don’t feel like the film offers us a complete (or at least a true) look at her life, the convincing and often gripping performances make Christine worthwhile.

 

 

Haus of Pain

The first thing you probably should know is that James Willems and Lawrence Sonntag are popular YouTubers. They are hosts on a channel called Funhaus, which has over a million subscribers. You might think that that playing video games and talking about them to the Internets with your buddies sounds like a dream job, but Willems held on to a niggling desire to fulfill a childhood dream: to become a pro-wrestler.
Haus of Pain is the documentary that watches James follow his dream as his indulgent f155e0c3b6dc092e-e1492785639801-959x512.pngfriend Lawrence gamely tags along. They take vacation time from work in order to work out at a wrestling school to learn the moves, and to develop characters. Old home video of James proves that wrestling has indeed been a life-long obsession of his. It also proves that he should be embarrassed about this, but he isn’t, not even when the costumes arrive and PVC is the material of choice.
The two train, are big babies about small injuries, and spend most of their time cultivating their alter egos – James Angel and The Troll – in order to sell the wrestling “story”. When they’re eventually deemed ready, they meet up in a tag team match against a hateful pair ready to rip them apart in from of literally dozens of their fans.
Here’s the thing. When I was a little girl, my dream job was to work in a Bandaid factory. I can’t quite work up the same enthusiasm for it as I did back then, but here’s what I know: I was the eldest of four daughters in my family, each one cuter and needier than the last. My (single) mother only had attention to spare for me if I was bleeding, so I cultivated an interest in Bandaids right quick, being the smart aleck in the family. And back then Bandaids weren’t the sterile little pieces of plastic they are today. They were fabric. And that fabric was disgusting immediately. It picked up every germ you ever 150107105154-childhood-dream-jobs-men-2-super-169encountered, stayed damp constantly from the merest of hand-washings, and developed a distinct, pervasive smell. A smell that I LOVED. So obviously to work in a Bandaid factory and be surrounded by these miraculous little sympathy-earners all day long would be a dream come true. One of my sisters dreamed of becoming a berry picker, another of being a gas pumper, and another aspired to become a member of Barbie’s band (sure they were cartoon fictional characters, but why not dream big?). I have no idea how we all turned out to be educated, gainfully employed adults, but it has a little something to do with letting go of our foolish childhood dreams, I’m guessing.
James went for his. And whether you find that inspirational or irrational is a matter of opinion – one you can form by checking out the doc.
Haus of Pain premiered on April 28th exclusively on FIRST, Rooster Teeth’s streaming service available at RoosterTeeth.com and on Xbox One, Apple TV, iOS and Android apps.
What did you want to be when you grew up?

Cool Shit on Netflix

Netflix is a black hole. You can spend more time deciding what to watch than actually watching. Sometimes the decision is paralyzing – am I the only one who has occasionally just read a damn book instead? Here’s a handy list of stuff that’s worth your time on Netflix. All of this can be found on Canadian Netflix in May 2017, but lots and maybe even most will be available in nearly all markets. Click on any blue title to read more about the film, and stay tuned for another post featuring documentaries, as Netflix is particularly good for those.

Don’t Think Twice: When one person in an improv comedy troupe gets a big break, the rest of the group grapples with jealousy as they realize they’re not all destined for great things. Starring Mike Birbiglia, Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs.

 

Blue Jay: Two former high school sweethearts meet up years later in their hometown and spend the day (and night) reminiscing – the flame is rekindled but so are past hurts. Starring Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass.

Mascots: In this new mockumentary by Christopher Guest, a bunch of low-level sports mascots compete as only adults wearing ridiculous fuzzy costumes could. Starring Parker Posey, Chris O’Dowd, Zach Woods, and the usual suspects.

Grandma: Lily Tomlin gives a career-best performance as the titular Grandma, called upon when her granddaughter needs an abortion her estranged daughter wouldn’t approve of. With Judy Greer, Julia Garner, and Marcia Gay Harden.

Infinitely Polar Bear: A manic-depressive father tries to win back his wife by attempting to take care of their two young, spirited daughters while she goes back to school. Super well-acted by Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana.

 

Experimenter: About the infamous experiments by psychologist Stanley Milgram that tested people’s willingness to obey authority – with shocking results. Starring Peter Sarsgaard, Winona Ryder, Anton Yelchin.

Desierto: A group of people trying to cross the border from Mexico into the United States encounter a man who has gone rogue, taking border patrol duties into his own racist and violent hands, man hunting man. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

American Honey: A teenage girl with nothing to lose goes AWOL with a bunch of traveling magazine sales misfits and gets caught up in a perfect storm of hard partying, law breaking, and young love. Starring Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough.

Cake: A woman becomes fascinated by the suicide of someone in her chronic pain support group while coping (and failing to cope) with her own personal tragedy. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, and Sam Worthington.

The Lobster: A movie only for the most quirky and adventurous audiences, about a world in which single people have 45 days to find love or face the direst of consequences. Starring Rachel Weisz, Colin Farrell, and John C. Reilly.

Hunter Gatherer: An indie gem in which an irrationally optimistic man returns home after a 3 year stint in prison only to find his girlfriend and his family have all moved on. Starring Andre Roya and George Sample III.

The Spectacular Now: Young love changes things for an alcoholic high school senior – but even the nicest of girls is no match for addictions. Starring Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller; with Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Bob Odenkirk.

Calvary: Not for the faint of heart. After being threatened during a confession, a good-natured priest must battle some super dark forces in his community. Starring Brendan Gleeson and Chris O’Dowd.

Denial: Rachel Weisz and Timothy Spall go head to head in a battle of Holocaust denial, based on the real-life court case.

Collateral: A hitman forces a cabdriver to drive him all over the city of Los Angeles as he performs a multitude of sins, while a dutiful cop chases behind them. Starring Jamie Foxx, Mark Ruffalo, and Tom Cruise.

45 Years: A married couple about to celebrate their wedding anniversary (guess which one) receives shattering news that makes them question everything. Starring Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay.

The Witch: This one scared the bejesus out of me with its dark, suspenseful mood that’ll ring buckets of anxiety out of you when a 1630s New England family is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft…more or less.

 

Anomalisa: A stop-motion animated movie by Charlie Kaufman, because why not? It charmed the pants off me when a man paralyzed by his unremarkable life experiences something out of the ordinary.

Force Majeure: A family on a ski vacation has their whole world turns upside down when an avalanche hits – everyone is fine, but the fact that Dad ran and left his family to die makes everyone very uncomfortable. A movie that will inspire discussion.

 

Everything, Everything

Are you a teenage girl? Or perhaps you simply have the taste in movies of one (Twilight, The Fault In Our Stars, Before I Fall)? If so, you can confidently add this movie to your lineup. For everyone else: keep moving.

It ain’t bad, it’s just not that good. It’s about a young woman, Maddy (Amandla Stenberg), who has SCID, a disease that basically renders her immune system void. She has to stay in her sterile home just to stay alive. She has never left it. It’s a sad and sheltered existence without outside contact except for her mother and her nurse, Carla, and what she can observe from her window. When a cute boy (Olly, Nick Robinson) moves in next door, it widens her world by a tiny margin, but only makes her feel more keenly for what she’s missing.

MV5BMTU5ODEzNTI4N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODU1MTQzMjI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1498,1000_AL_Their love story unfolds slowly, as it must when one person is physically removed from the other. In the novel they communicate by text or instant messaging. To make that play a little less boring on screen, director Stella Meghie imagines them within the architectural models that Maddy’s always working on. It’s a device that works while still reminding us that these conversations don’t actually take place in a face-to-face reality. Still, it’s a talk-heavy, plot-light movie that doesn’t move around too much. If you aren’t swooning over Olly’s too-long-locks, you’re probably going to find this long.

As you might guess, this relationship prompts Maddy to consider going outside for the first time in her life. She’ll be risking her tenuous health and the sharp disapproval of her overprotective mother. But what else is young love for, if not rebellion?

Anyway. As you know, Hollywood only thinks teenagers are good for two things: romance with vampires, and death. Or at least they’re only profitable doing one of those two MV5BM2UwNDlhNmUtOWRiYi00MzgzLWFiMzEtMDE2MWE2NWY0MzMxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTkxOTY3MDY@._V1_things. Amandla Stenberg is very charming as Maddy, the brave, beautiful, but socially awkward girl next door trapped in a glass castle. She succumbs to the kind of romantic gestures no teenage boy would be caught doing and only a young-adult novelist could dream up. There’s some major eye-rolling to be had in this movie, and it starts rather early, when Olly first appears in his driveway, tossing his luscious locks in the unfiltered sunlight, shooting his pretty neighbour a cocksure grin while showing off on his skateboard. I was so sure he was about to eat it, and truthfully hoping he would, that it set a really weird tone to the movie for me. I guess my lusty teenage days are too far behind me. Your enjoyment of this movie will depend on the calculation between yourself and your own misspent youth.

Rear Window

The first time I saw Rear Window, I was in high school, still living with my mother out in the suburb of a small town. We had neighbours, but each ensconced in their own acre-sized lot, with no windows that could be seen from my windows except in the vaguest way possible. I didn’t even know anyone who lived in an apartment.

It’s a sweltering New York summer, and Jeff (James Stewart), a photographer, is cooped up in his West Village apartment, his broken leg in a cast. He spends his days gazing out his window at the apartment building opposite him, and thanks to the heat wave, tumblr_ogehf50Yis1rfd7lko1_500everyone’s got their windows open and their business on display. It’s a lesson in voyeurism that probably also comments upon the movie going experience, our own gaze from within a darkened theatre into the secret lives of others. “We’ve become a nation of peeping toms,” complains Stella (Thelma Ritter), Jeff’s nurse, and she’s not wrong. But immobilized in a wheel chair, Jeff is spellbound by the people across the courtyard, and becomes convinced that one of them has committed murder. Soon the skeptical nurse gets pulled into his nonsense as well, as does Stewart’s love interest Lisa, played by Grace Kelly.

Now, of course Jeff is watching his neighbours with murder on his mind, but it’s impossible not to note that there’s another big M being observed: marriage. Remember that Lisa, kind, wonderful, thoughtful, beautiful Lisa, is doing most of the pursuing in her relationship with Jeff, and he’s doing most of the resisting. Marriage, to him, is a bigger trap than the cast he’s saddled with on his leg. The other apartment building has all sorts of marriage on display from newlyweds pulling down their blind for “alone time” to the old married couple always bickering. And perhaps the couple so fed up with each other they may resort to murder.

Incredibly, the entire set was built on a Paramount sound studio over two months, the set measuring 98 feet wide, 185 long and 40 high. The courtyard is about 20 to 30 feet below stage level, so they actually tore up the stage and built the courtyard in the basement, which used to be a storage area. That way when you look down from Jeff’s apartment, tumblr_ok3uz6DlfI1qa3aq2o1_500the perspective is just right. The set’s buildings consisted of 31 apartments wired for electricity and plumbed for water; a dozen of them were completely furnished. Georgine Darcy, who played Miss Toros (the dancer), lived in the apartment all day long, resting there between takes as if it were really her home. There were 1000 large lights and 1000 smaller ones to simulate sunlight; once it got so hot on set that it set off the sprinklers. Hitchcock directed the whole thing from Jeff’s apartment. The actors in the building across the courtyard wore flesh-coloured ear pieces and took direction that way.

Rear Window is one of my favourite Hitchcock films. When Sean and I rewatched it recently we delighted in one-upping each other with our running commentary about James Stewart relationships with women in this movie. They’re worse than just dated. But the truth is, the film has held up well and is just as entertaining now as ever. It’s definitely One To Watch.

 

 

Zodiac: 10th Annivesary

It’s been a decade since David Fincher graced cinemas with Zodiac, which means it’s been 10 years since it climbed its way to the top of my favourite David Fincher films list, and remained there.

Zodiac is about the 1960s\70s manhunt for the San Francisco-area Zodiac Killer, who went on a murder spree-media frenzy, terrorizing people in several Northern California zodiac.jpgcommunities but evading police and justice to this day. The Zodiac Killer had held a dimming spot in our collective conscious for years when David Fincher got his hands on the material (a new book on the case by Robert Graysmith was the inspiration, though not terribly well-written) and turned a tired story into something that could take your breath away.

There are several brilliant strokes that make this movie more than just a movie.

  1. It focuses on Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist at a San Francisco newspaper (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) and Paul Avery, a reporter (Robert Downey, Jr.), who became obsessed with the case and played armchair detectives. This was effective story-telling be because Graysmith and Avery are just like us: outsiders. They have no business “detecting.” They have no privileged information. They’re just interested, and it makes us interested.
  2. That said, this is a serial killer movie without the serial killer. The crimes were never solved. At best, he’s a shadowy figure in the movie (and brilliantly, Fincher had several different actors play this shadowy figure so we always feel a little off-kilter). This truly is about the regular people (and Inspector Toschi, a cop frustrated by the case’s dead ends – played by Mark Ruffalo), feeling more like Spotlight than Seven.
  3. Although the movie works very well strictly as crime drama, that’s really just a superficial reading of Zodiac, the tip of the iceberg with a whole lot more waiting to be discovered underneath. The film’s tone lulls us into a trance. The score, the pacing, the editing, it all works together to draw us into this hyper-awareness that heightens everything, so that we watch raptly, watching office scenes with trepidation equal to the creepy, cob-webby basement scenes. We start to realize that the serial killer is not what’s threatening Graysmith; it’s the search for truth that’s ripping his life apart. Now that little nugget comes with a whole lot more cynicism that mere murder can provide.
  4. The case and the film each build consistently, unrelentingly. You get pulled into it, dragged along. It’s not about the violence and blood (there’s very little of either), but about relentless pursuit, without resolution. That’s hard to maintain and in less capable hands, this could easily have been a dry and boring movie. But Fincher bring the suspense, and without us realizing it, he infuses that suspense into every scene. The suspense never lets up. It becomes an ache, one achieved not with fancy car chases or dramatic shootouts, but through methodical police work, the film as detail-oriented as the director himself.
  5. There’s no ending. Or no satisfying one, at least. That goes against what usually makes a Fincher film great, those memorable last lines, a Beatles tune playing over the credits. But Zodiac goes without, because in real life, the Zodiac Killer got away. Maybe we know who it is. Maybe. But no arrest was ever made, no one ever served time. The film reflects this truth and denies us catharsis and our “Hollywood ending” as we understand them. The Zodiac murders weren’t just a news item, it was The Case for a generation, one that never got wrapped up. Fincher was part of that generation, and grew up in the area. It obviously stuck with him. In many ways, Zodiac is his most personal film, so he made it not about the killer, but about the people chasing him. The people trying to solve the ultimate puzzle, and paying the price when justice is ellusive.

Because life is cruel, Zodiac was NOT a hit at the box office, making a paltry $33M in the U.S. against its $65M budget. It was never going to be a hit. It’s not lurid or bloody. It’s an ode to method. And while today we’ve become obsessed with this method (Making A zodiac-murder-scene.gifMurderer, OJ: Made in America), 10 years ago it was unknown. Maybe it was Fincher who invented it. He definitely perfected it, and without an entire season’s worth of episodes to devote to his subject, he imbues each scene with loads of meaning, making each one impactful and riveting. Maybe not as riveting as Wild Hogs, that atrocious piece of shit starring Tim Allen, John Travolta and Martin Lawrence (it opened the same weekend and beat Zodiac by about 30 million dollars), but in the past decade, it has impressed nearly everyone who’s sought it out. The cast is splendid, the script smart, the direction thoughtful and meaningful. But it did not win the Oscar. Know why? BECAUSE IT WASN’T EVEN NOMINATED!

 

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

The film was pitched to the studio as Lord of the Rings meets Snatch. Charlie Hunnam, who won the role of King Arthur only after promising Guy Ritchie that he’d bulk up for it, and offered to fight (and win) the other two in consideration (Henry Cavill and Jai Courtney), said that the description sold him on the movie: “That’s a film I wanted to see.” Unfortunately, we can now say that Hunnam was the only one who did. King Arthur bombed big time at the box office this weekend, earning just $17M against its $175M production budget. Sean and I were part of that tiny 17 million dollar sliver, but only because it was opening night at our local drive-in theatre and we just couldn’t stay away.

Full disclosure, the moment the movie began, I turned to Sean and said “I really don’t like 1200x675movies that mix fantasy and historical.” Sean let out a breath. “You’re going to hate this.” He was right. I kind of knew it too. But as soon as I’d said those words, I realized they were too general. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head, but I’m certain there are plenty of movies who get it right. I know I was thinking of The Great Wall when I said it, as King Arthur’s opening scene immediately put that to my mind, which was a rough way to start. It would later remind me of the egregious Ben Hur remake, an even worse comparison.

The premise is, of course, familiar: King Uther (Eric Bana) has a rocking sword named Excalibur and a shitty younger brother named Vortigern (Jude Law, who only plays bad guys since he lost his hair) who doesn’t love anyone as much as he loves himself, and loves power most of all. He’ll stop at nothing to win and keep the crown, and he slays his way through his own immediate family, spilling their blood to make himself king. His kingdom suffers from his megalomania for years, but just when things go really REALLY bad, Excalibur reveals itself, the sword in the stone that no one can liberate. Vortigern ka-17714r_-_h_2017knows that only his nephew will be able to handle it, so he rounds up all the age-appropriate young men in the kingdom and eventually Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is revealed. And then it’s game ON. Arthur isn’t really motivated to do battle with his ruthless uncle, but a beautiful mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) persuades him that it must be so.

Guy Ritchie’s Arthur was raised in a brothel and is a bit of a thug. His gang is fast-talking, full of the saucy wit we’ve come to expect from a Ritchie movie, only now it’s mixed with magic and sorcery and feels wildly out of place. It’s clear Ritchie is aiming for a stylish, genre-bending effort, with anachronisms he doesn’t quite pull off as well as say, Baz Lurhrmann did in Moulin Rouge or even Brian Helgeland with A Knight’s Tale (although the heavy-breathing score is kind of inspired).  This King Arthur is a muscular and masculine movie that’s devoid of plot or character development. There’s no risk of actual tension so instead Ritchie has made sure that “stuff” is always “happening.” The movie just plops you down in the middle of the action, stuff that Ritchie apparently just made up in his head, and expects you to know what he was thinking. If you feel quite confident about your ability to read Guy Ritchie’s mind vis-a-vis magic and ginormous, fantastical pachyderms, you’re set. Otherwise, you’re in for a world of confusion, and the fact that Ritchie is apparently allergic to linear story-telling doesn’t help. One scene is constantly inter-cut with another because Guy Ritchie JUST CAN’T WAIT TO GET TO THE POINT! But will still make you sit through the dreary stuff as well, edited so its dreary-ACTION!-dreary-ACTION!-dreary-ACTION! and you forget which time line you’re actually in, even though they’re probably only separated by about 6 minutes or so, making it all feeling DREARY-DREARY!-DREARIER-DREARIEST!

This was meant to be merely the first installment of a planned six films series; safe to say the other 5 will soon be scrapped. Ritchie might be good at gritty crime dramas, but audiences just aren’t receiving his douchebag approach (hello, David Beckham cameo!) to King Arthur very well. I’ll tell you one redeeming thing though: Charlie Hunnam is indeed fit to be king. Very, very fit. I thought the wardrobe choice for him was interesting but cannot, for the life of me, understand why he wasn’t just shirtless the whole time. His physicality seemed to be of utmost importance to Ritchie, so why not capitalize on his one good idea and call it a day?

Bon Cop, Bad Cop

Good-Cop-Bon-CopAs someone who grew up in Ontario (mostly) and now lives in Quebec, I can say with authority that Bon Cop, Bad Cop is a fantastic send up of the occasionally pained relationship between the two provinces.  There’s a lot of history and a lot of angst to be found in that relationship, and somehow we now seem more distant from each other than do the English and French, whose historic animus is the basis for our long-standing conflict.

When I go shopping in Quebec, I do not speak French and neither does Jay even though she’s totally bilingual.  I am not bilingual but I know enough to order a Happy Meal in French if I wanted.  But I DON’T want to – I want Quebec McDonald’s to speak English to me.

That stubbornness goes both ways.  Not only do many frontline retail staff refuse to speak English back to me (especially older ones), Quebecers are consistently terrible drivers who poke along well below the speed limit in the fast lane and refuse to move over for my bright orange racecar no matter how close I get to their bumper.

And yet, we consistently have each other’s back when push comes to shove.  When it rained for what seemed like a month straight in April and May and the Ottawa River started overflowing its banks to the point that it came onto our backyard, those same French bastards from McDonald’s and the highway banded together to deliver sandbags to us (and thousands of other English speakers in our border city) at 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday and then helped us put those sandbags in place, with smiles on their faces as they asked in English whether they could do anything else to help.

Bon Cop, Bad Cop nails that dynamic at every step, as two cops (Ontarian Colm Feore and Quebecer Patrick Huard) are forced to work together to solve a murder in which a body was found straddling the Ontario-Quebec border.  Of course they’re going to try to one-up the other, of course they’re going to set stupid and arbitrary rules about who does what and which language gets used when, and of course their petty squabbles are going to put everything in jeopardy.  Because that’s what we do.  But in the end, we accomplish what needs doing, and we share a grudging respect that binds us closer than geography alone ever could.

Bon Cop, Bad Cop captures our relationship perfectly and pokes fun at it at every opportunity.  That made Bon Cop, Bad Cop enjoyable in spite of its cliches, nonsensical plot, and cheap shots at Gary Bettman (okay, the last bit was enjoyable on its own).   But if you’re not from either province, you probably won’t get it, and truthfully we kind of like that you don’t.   We may argue over which of Ontario and Quebec is better but we agree that both are way better than wherever the hell you live.