Thursday, October 2, 2014


Just saw the Annabelle trailer. FREAKED ME OUT! The whole theater was jumping and screaming.  I mean, I was cool, until my crew beside me started jumping...that scaredy cat mess is contagious. Anyways, see for yourself:

If you can't see the video above, click the link below to see the Warner Bros. trailer:

I loved The Conjuring (New Line Cinema, Warner Bros) too, which is what Annabelle spins from.  Recommendation: see The Conjuring either before or after Annabelle. New Line Cinema probably planned that Annabelle made a huge impression in The Conjuring.  She almost stole the show!

The Conjuring = LARGE BAG OF POPCORN ...and probably a sedative as the credits roll

Film Saga #2 My TIFF Rankings & Reviews

So, I love movies and I love food. My grading system:
      • small bag of popcorn = not so good
      • medium bag of popcorn = good
      • large bag of popcorn = great
      • a bucket of popcorn = awesome
      • burnt popcorn = utter disappointment
Capua, Shall I begin?...........

#1 THE GUEST (Dan Stevens)
From the people who brought us You're Next. THANK YOU!

I have not been impressed with or interested in horror flicks that have come after the spectacular Scream trilogy.  Only few have made the cut (pun intended).  The Guest is one that is equal parts batshit crazy and impressive.  Imagine Michael Myers meets T1000 meets Fear meets Universal Soldier with the edgiest, creepiest, sexiest vibe of 80's horror marrying 21st century thriller.  Easily trumped any movie at the festival.  I even got to shake Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett's hands.  These men know how to handle horror.  Casting Dan Stevens ("Matthew Crawley"in Downton Abbey) as the enigmatic, charming lead was genius because every woman who loves Matthew, Downton Abbey and everyone who loves thrillers should flock.  Midnight Madness showing with a beach ball made this an instant classic.

A BUCKET OF POPCORN a orange soda with grape now&laters

Kevin Costner, Octavia Spencer, and Anthony Mackie are spectacular in this brilliantly scripted comedic drama about custody of a biracial child.  All three actors deliver some of the most poignant speeches about family, race, self-respect, love and grief of all time.  The words will resonate.  I swear.  Costner and Spencer have amazing chemistry, they are a joy to watch even amidst so much heavy material.

A LARGE BAG OF POPCORN, preferably sweet kettle corn and a bourbon. 

#3 THE EQUALIZER (Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz)
Just slap your cash on the counter and say "two for Denzel." 
A friend of mine once pointed out that DW tends to only play different types of cops. Well, my friend, in this one, Mr. Washington is very different - an imaginative killer with a heart of gold ... sort of.  I loved it.  Although, as usual, Director Antoine Fuqua o.d.'s on slowmo hero shots.  The most interesting moments are the most calm and intellectual scenes between Washington and Csokas.  The action takes a long while to appear but when it does it's well worth it.  I bet, like me, you will leave with three or four favorite scenes in mind.  And there appears to be an indication of a sequel.  But we all know Denzel doesn't do sequels...right?

A BUCKET OF POPCORN ...literally, we devoured one

#4 THE DEAD LANDS (James Rolleston, Lawrence Makoare, Te Kohe Tuhaka - New Zealand)

A Maori warrior pic set in pre-colonial New Zealand mixed with a coming of age story for its young hero.  This was a real TIFF movie experience as it was shown on an IMAX screen with subtitles (filmed in Maori language).  Mom and I were riveted, and .....she kept saying the villain looked like Dwayne Johnson.  Anyways, a great tragedy befalls Hongi's people and he alone must avenge them.  But he doesn't know how exactly.  Hongi links up with a psycho whose introduction is all kinds of creepy and brutal.  You're thinking the whole time, why him?
I know almost nothing about Maori culture, but coming out of the film, the "haka" has new horrifying meaning.  Justice, forgiveness and legacy are the major themes of the film, but however familiar you may be with these concepts, this film discussed them in ways anew. Bonus: "Nasir" (Pana Hema-Taylor) from Spartacus: War of the Damned makes an appearance. Lovely to see him again.

A MEDIUM BAG OF POPCORN... and don't crunch too loud. these are soft spoken warriors.

#5 THE RIOT CLUB (Max Irons, Sam Claflin, Douglas Booth)
Ok, I confess, I mostly went to see this because hot British men behaving badly appealed to me. Ok OK?!  Now that that's over with, it was an ok flick. 
The movie is based on a play called "Posh" by Laura Wade, which was originally performed at The Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs with Kit Harington ("Jon Snow", Game of Thrones) in the cast; then, moved to West End of London.  Basically, it's poor little rich boys complaining about the masses, growing out of control at a wild annual dinner party.  We follow two new recruits - the black hat and the white hat - as they join Oxford's oldest secret society, based on the very real Bullingdon Club.  There is some relevant socioeconomic commentary, but lots of it is lost in the exquisite but overpowering British accents/jargon. I am so used to North American speech patterns.  The club members display various prejudices, not only to outsiders, but also toward each other. For example, one member's Greek heritage makes him debatable as a leader, though why is not fully explained.  Overall, an entertaining springboard for these upcoming Brit leads.  Those who call it a British The Skulls, you're not wrong.
If you go see this, I highly recommend reading Wade's play, which is published by Oberon Books Ltd.  ($8.12 kindle/$9.00 paperback on Amazon). This is a good idea because the playwright was also the screenwriter, so I think context is crucial to understanding the theatrical versus cinematic choices.

MEDIUM BAG OF POPCORN and pudding (apparently "posh-speak" for dessert)

#6 BIG GAME (Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Ray Stevenson - Finland)
Now this is a popcorn movie! It is so utterly unrealistic but fun with a one-liner that certainly belongs on a t-shirt.  Sammie L, one of the "Kings of the One-Liner".  Half the dialog is in finnish with subtitles, but I have always loved multilingual movies. Adds to the experience.
SLJ plays the President of the United States stranded in Finland after Air Force One goes down.  He meets a boy whose on his spirit journey and the boy becomes his guide.  What I love about this scenario is that neither of these characters are expected to survive.  They both have some "butching up" to do.  Ray Stevenson was not featured in the descriptions for this movie so his appearance was a surprise.  The villain was absolutely laughable.  I mean, there are a lot of laughs in this, not the least of which is the next to last scene. The scenery was notable though.  I call this kind of movie Awesomely Bad*.

A SMALL BAG OF POPCORN and a big smile

*Examples of Awesomely Bad Movies:
Snakes on a Plane (SLJ movie ha!)
Bullet to the Head
Showgirls (no this was just BAD)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Film Saga #1 TIFF

My First Toronto International Film Festival 2014 (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Buying the ticket package was a slam dunk. After hawking the TIFF database to absorb every ounce of information there was about the film lineup, film descriptions, red carpet events, midnight movie madness, even old pics of festivals past just to see what people wear up there, etc. I finally wrote my list.

I listed 50 movies as must sees, wish lists, and definitely maybes... Thing is, I only had four days on the Back Half and ten tickets to share with my absolute favorite movie partner - Mom.  The night before choosing, we narrowed the list down (with lots of pouting involved). But, we did it.

*My Choice Package Films (unranked):
1. Black and White
2. The Riot Club
3. The Dead Lands
4. Big Game
5. The Guest (bought the tickets the morning of)
6. The Keeping Room (couldn't make the 9am Sun. show)
7. The Equalizer
8. Top Five
*If you are not interested of any of these's a good time to move on to another blog.

The process of selecting the films was a little trippy as the film schedule site kept saying "error message" every time I refreshed, but I got all of my selections finalized within 20 mins. The itinerary was set!

Next post: Rankings & Reviews