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Cinema Scoop

New out on DVD/Blu-ray this week

New out on DVD/Blu-ray for Tuesday August 27.

     Mud

Mud is a dramatic adventure about two boys, Ellis and his friend Neckbone, who find a man named Mud (Matthew McConaughey) hiding out on an island in the Mississippi. Mud describes fantastic scenarios - he killed a man in Texas and vengeful bounty hunters are coming to get him. He says he is planning to meet and escape with the love of his life, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), who is waiting for him in town. Skeptical but intrigued, Ellis and Neckbone agree to help him. It isn't long until Mud's visions come true and their small town is besieged by a beautiful girl with a line of bounty hunters in tow.

Simply put, Mud is one of my absolute favourite films of the year thus far. It's a tremendously compelling drama full of tension, suspense and wonderfully drawn characters. There are virtually no flaws in this expertly crafted film by writer/director Jeff Nichols. I thoroughly enjoyed his previous two films, Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter, which were both excellent character driven dramas that featured a superb performance from Michael Shannon, who also happens to have a small supporting role in Mud. Also featured in supporting roles are Sam Shepard, Sarah Paulson, Ray McKinnon and Joe Don Baker.

Matthew McConaughey delivers one of his best performances to date in this film. It's great to see him finally stray away from all of those horrible, formulaic romantic comedies that he was doing for several years. Lately he's strung together a pretty decent run of films such as The Lincoln Lawyer, Bernie and the super twisted Killer Joe, and he's been very solid in all of them. As good as he is in this film though, the real star of the show ends up being young Tye Sheridan who plays Ellis. This is a star making turn for the 15-year-old actor, whose only other role to date was in Terrence Malick's Tree of Life. I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more of him in the years to come if this film is any indication of his talents.

Overall, I highly recommend you seek out this wonderfully thoughtful and riveting drama. It's a beautifully shot, deliberately paced work of cinematic perfection. I truly hope that Mud gets remembered come Oscar voting time because it deserves a ton of accolades. So good!

     The Great Gatsby

An adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Long Island set novel, where Midwesterner Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is lured into the lavish world of his neighbour, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Soon enough, however, Carraway will see through the cracks of Gatsby's nouveau riche existence, where obsession, madness, and tragedy await.

Based on one of the most famous novels in the history of American Literature, F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 masterpiece The Great Gatsby, Australian auteur Baz Luhrmann's (Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!) latest exercise in visual bombast is certainly a feast for the senses. At times it is bold and dazzling, but more often than not, it is a bloated film steeped in artificiality and lacking any semblance of a soul. It's a lavishly theatrical celebration of materialism and excess in the Roaring Twenties filled to the brim with gorgeous costumes and set pieces, but sadly the characters housed within are severely underwritten and appear shallow and hollow.

This story involving love, betrayal, heartbreak and tragedy is essentially a simple soap-opera-like tale set amidst the glitz and glamour of the jazz-age, featuring grandiose moments of visual flourish by an artistic director clearly more concerned with showing off his ability to create an opulent spectacle on the screen rather than a story that one can truly sink their teeth into and connect with. Also, at 143 minutes, the film is overly long and overblown.

Luhrmann clearly has no interest in maintaining any sort of historical accuracy where this time period is concerned as he punctuates the soundtrack with modern music, including plenty of hip-hop courtesy of the film's producer, Jay Z. Some may enjoy this sort of thing, but me... not so much.

The performances are fine throughout the film by a talented cast, which also includes Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, and Elizabeth Debicki, but overall I didn't find anything about The Great Gatsby to be an engaging and enthralling story. It just didn't do all that much for me.

     Pain & Gain

Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) is a regular bodybuilder who works at the Sun Gym along with his friend Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie). Sick of living the poor life, Lugo concocts a plan to kidnap Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), a regular at the gym and a rich, spoiled businessman, and extort money from him by means of torture. With the help of recently released criminal Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson), the "Sun Gym Gang" successfully gets Kershaw to sign over all his finances. But when Kershaw survives an attempted murder by the gang, he hires private investigator Ed Du Bois (Ed Harris) to catch the criminals after the Miami Police Department fails to do so. This film is based on actual events.

I'm not a fan of director Michael Bay at all. He continually makes overblown, bombastic movies without a trace of heart or soul in them such as Transformers, Bad Boys and Armageddon. With his latest effort, Pain & Gain, Bay has once again gone for style over substance and created a film where he seems more concerned with camera tricks and the visual aspect of it rather than focusing on character development and story. It's all sizzle and no steak. He offers us no originality whatsoever and doesn't bother to concern himself with telling a compelling story. I found quite a bit of this film to be loud, obnoxious and far from overly entertaining.

I didn't have any issues with the performances per se, but I sure as heck disliked all of the principal characters. They were all really shallow idiots with absolutely no depth to them and nothing about them was relatable. The film just left me with somewhat of a bad taste in my mouth. The uneven tone was off-putting and it seemed unnecessarily exploitive. 

In my opinion, Pain & Gain was a huge misfire.

     Still Mine

Based on a true story, Still Mine stars James Cromwell as Craig Morrison, a farmer in rural St. Martins, New Brunswick who battles government bureaucracy and red tape for the right to build a new house for his ailing wife Irene (Geneviève Bujold) when their existing home no longer suits her health needs.

This wonderful little gem of a film is a touching portrait of enduring love and perseverance. It's a beautifully acted and tender drama that will likely appeal to more mature audience members out there. James Cromwell gives an Oscar worthy performance as a determined man who will do whatever it takes to give his wife the life he thinks she deserves, even if it means breaking the law and ruffling feathers. 

I really enjoyed this nice, heartfelt character driven film. Everything about it was done superbly. Seek this one out for sure. I highly recommend Still Mine.

     Kon Tiki

This Norwegian film tells the story of legendary explorer Thor Heyerdal's epic 4300 miles crossing of the Pacific on a balsa wood raft in 1947, in an effort to prove it was possible for South Americans to settle in Polynesia in pre-Columbian times.

Kon Tiki was one of the five Oscar nominated films for Best Foreign Language Film at this past year's ceremony and I can see why - it's an excellent film. It's a gorgeously shot, visually arresting tale of man-against-nature and it's also a thrilling and suspense laden adventure story. 

If you are a fan of international cinema and you enjoy historical stories about famous explorers then Kon Tiki is a must see. 

Also out this week is the thriller The Colony starring Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton, the slow moving spy thriller Shadow Dancer with Clive Owen and Andrea Riseborough, the kids movie, Super Buddies, the 5th season of Sons of Anarchy, the 1st season of Elementary, and the 3rd season of the awesome show The Walking Dead.

New out on DVD/Blu-ray is brought to you by Leo's Videos, 2680 Pandosy St. (250) 861-8437





Journey to 'The World's End'

Back in 1999, British director Edgar Wright got together with two of his actor friends, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and they created a hilarious TV show for the BBC called Spaced, which totally parodied geeks and their obsession with science fiction pop culture. In 2004, the three collaborated on Shaun of the Dead, the first film in what would end up becoming a trilogy of genre comedies. In 2007 the trio brought us the hilarious buddy cop action comedy Hot Fuzz. Now, six years later, we finally get the finale of the trilogy, the riotously entertaining The World's End. As far as I'm concerned, I think these guys are ending the summer movie season with a bang and I'm pretty confident that fans of their previous films are sure to have a blast with this movie.

The film opens with Gary King (Simon Pegg) proudly relaying the tale of when he and his four best friends attempted to conquer the fabled "Golden Mile", an epic quest of drinking a pint of beer at each of the 12 pubs in his quaint English hometown of Newton Haven over the course of one evening. Even though they couldn't complete the challenge, it still remains the highlight of his youth and, sadly, his entire life. We find out that Gary has been telling this story during a group therapy session for drug addicts and we see that his life has amounted to virtually nothing. Realizing that the only way he's going to get any satisfaction and attain a sense of self-worth is if he completes the pub crawl, Gary decides to round up his old chums to give it one more try.

Of course, a lot has changed in twenty years and not everyone is still stuck in the 90s like Gary, but nevertheless he manages to convince them to tag along for this journey of drunken tomfoolery. Joining him are timid car salesman Peter (Eddie Marsan), meticulous real estate agent Oliver (Martin Freeman), wealthy architect Steven (Paddy Considine) and his former best friend Andy (Nick Frost), a corporate lawyer who hasn't spoken to him or had a drink in almost 16 years. Gary's friends have all established lives for themselves, with wives, kids and flourishing careers so, needless to say, they're all a little reluctant at first to attempt this crazy endeavour. A few pubs and a few pints in though, they begin to loosen up and when Oliver's sister, Sam (Rosamund Pike) shows up, the old youthful feelings re-emerge and things start to feel familiar to them again.

The problem is though that things are a little too familiar in this small town - as in nothing has changed at all, and there's a reason for it. Now I don't really want to get too spoilery here, but there's a point where the film essentially shifts genres and delves into science fiction territory, and this is where the movie really takes flight. The shift in tone works tremendously well as the characters we've now grown to care about are thrust into a world of chaos and there's plenty of action on display. The great thing is though that the rapid-fire wit and dry humour is maintained throughout, even amidst these otherworldly circumstances.

The World's End (which, by the way, refers to the name of the last pub on their journey) is easily Edgar Wright's most ambitious film in the trilogy, and in a weird way, it's also the most poignant. The film truly centers around Gary and his kind of sad and pathetic attempt to recapture his youthful glory. He's an emotionally stunted and self-centered jerk most of the time, but by the end of the film you feel his pain and desperation and you just want him to get that last pint at all costs. Simon Pegg does a great job with this role, in fact the entire cast is exceptional in this film.

I thoroughly enjoyed virtually every facet of The World's End. Sure, the climax got a bit outlandish and over-the-top, but I still had a lot of fun with it. It's a briskly paced, funny film with a real sense of nostalgia and a surprising amount of heart to it. I think film geeks everywhere are going to really dig this mash-up of sci-fi and comedy. If you were a fan of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, then you have to see The World's End. What are you waiting for?

I give The World's End an 8.5 out of 10.



Your weekend movie guide

Greetings movie lovers, it's time to take a look at what the cinema has to offer us this weekend.

     The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Opened Wed. Aug. 21.)

Set in contemporary New York City, a seemingly ordinary teenager, Clary Fray (Lily Collins), discovers she is the descendant of a line of Shadowhunters, a secret cadre of young half-angel warriors locked in an ancient battle to protect our world from demons. After the disappearance of her mother (Lena Headey), Clary must join forces with a group of Shadowhunters, who introduce her to a dangerous alternate New York called Downworld, filled with demons, warlocks, vampires, werewolves and other deadly creatures.

     My Take

Based on the first in a series of books written by best-selling author Cassandra Clare, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is the latest attempt to capture the tween market and start up a new franchise. All I can say after repeatedly seeing the trailer for the film the past several months is...  good luck with that. 

This movie is the latest in the ever increasing trend of films based on young-adult novels that audiences are growing sick and tired of. It seems like the studios are doing everything they can lately to try to recreate the success of that awful Twilight franchise and it just isn't working. Earlier this year saw the release of the mediocre and forgettable Beautiful Creatures and just a few months ago we got the atrociously bad film The Host, which was based on Twilight author Stephenie Meyer's novel. They were both critical and commercial flops and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if The Mortal Instruments follows suit and tanks. It is, after all, already scoring a putrid 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so that does not bode well at all.

Look, it's not like I'm saying that all movies based on YA novels should be avoided at all costs, just look how amazing the Harry Potter franchise turned out and The Hunger Games was pretty fabulous also, but these are exceptions rather than the rule because the majority of the films that are coming out now just involve a bunch of attractive leads engaging in passionate, youthful love stories that generally have some sort of supernatural element attached to them. It's the same tired formula every single time. Yawn!

I suppose if you are a huge fan of this book series, then you are likely excited to check out The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. I highly doubt that the casual film goer will give two hoots about it though. I know I certainly don't.

     The World's End

20 years after attempting an epic pub crawl, five childhood friends reunite when one of them becomes hellbent on trying the drinking marathon again. They are convinced to stage an encore by Gary King (Simon Pegg), a 40-year-old man trapped at the cigarette end of his teens, who drags his reluctant pals to their hometown and once again attempts to reach the fabled pub - The World's End. As they attempt to reconcile the past and present, they realize the real struggle is for the future, not just theirs but humankind's as well. Reaching The World's End is the least of their worries.

     My Take

Alright, now we're cooking with gas. This is a movie that I'm excited for. I'm a huge fan of its director, Edgar Wright, who made the fabulously hilarious films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz which also starred the funny duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. He also directed the wildly inventive Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and wrote the screenplay for the wonderful Steven Spielberg animated film The Adventures of Tintin. Next up in 2015, he's slated to direct the Marvel comic book adaptation of Ant-Man, which will no doubt blow us all away. Yeah, so basically this guy can do no wrong, so I have every confidence in the world that The World's End is going to be a funny and crazy piece of entertainment. 

In addition to the dynamic duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the cast also includes some stalwart British actors such as Martin Freeman (Bilbo in The Hobbit), Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan and Rosamund Pike. It should be hilarious watching these guys attempting to recapture their youth by going on a pub crawl only to be interrupted by a bloody alien invasion or something of that nature. 

You may be thinking to yourself, didn't we just see a comedy about the end of the world called This Is the End? Well, yes, but this one is going to be extremely different in terms of tone and the style of humour. Edgar Wright is exceptionally creative when it comes to blending science fiction and comedy and this will likely be chock full of original action set pieces and witty dialogue. I have a sneaky feeling that The World's End could end up being one of the most entertaining films of the year, albeit one that gets barely any hype stateside.

The critical buzz is tremendous thus far for The World's End, so I sincerely hope that people give it a chance and support it on opening weekend. After all, you do go to the movies to be entertained now right?

Really looking forward to this.

     You're Next

When a gang of masked, ax-wielding murderers descend upon the Davison family reunion, the hapless victims seem trapped... until an unlikely guest of the family proves to be the most talented killer of all.

     My Take

Ok, this looks creepy as hell. The sight of these killers lurking outside a country home wearing disturbing looking animal masks should be enough to get horror fans' butts in seats this weekend. The trailer for the film is well done, with the mellow sounds of Lou Reed's great song Perfect Day a nice contrast to the horrific sights within. I hadn't heard that song in awhile, in fact not since it was used to great effect in Trainspotting.

You're Next is a fairly low budget entry into the slasher genre featuring a cast of relative unknowns. It's directed by Adam Wingard, who directed a couple of segments in the horror anthology series V/H/S and V/H/S/2. There's not a whole heck of a lot to go on here in terms of track record. I'm just hoping that this film will end up being really scary and effective and it will announce a new voice in horror. I'm a big horror fan, so it's always great when someone new and creative comes along to keep the genre fresh and energetic.

Judging by how well films such as The Purge and The Conjuring did at the box office recently, it appears that horror is going strong right now and there is always going to be an audience for it. Can You're Next follow in those films footsteps and rule the box office this weekend? Who knows, we'll have to wait and see, but in the meantime, if you are in the mood for some blood and guts and a few jump scares, then you might want to check out You're Next on the big screen. It's been getting some tremendous advanced buzz already scoring an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes.

This could be a scary good time.

     Blue Jasmine

A life crisis causes a vapid and narcissistic socialite to head to San Francisco, where she tries to reconnect with her sister.

     My Take

This is the latest effort from the highly prolific and legendary director Woody Allen, whom I happen to be an enormous fan of, so needless to say, I'm looking forward to seeing this. Now, before all you mainstreamers out there get scared off by the mere mention of the name Woody Allen, bear in mind that Blue Jasmine does not feature him in an acting role - he just wrote and directed it. Some of his best work has come in recent years in films where he's stayed behind the camera only - films such as Midnight in Paris, Vicky Christina Barcelona and Match Point.

Blue Jasmine is Allen's 45th film and once again, he has assembled an eclectic cast of talented actors, the likes of which include Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, and Michael Stuhlbarg. And did I mention that it was a drama? Interesting seeing as how he cast comedians like Andrew Dice Clay and Louis C.K.

Blue Jasmine already opened several weeks ago in limited markets and it has received a tremendous amount of critical acclaim thus far. It's being hailed as one of Woody's best in years. Cate Blanchett has also been receiving strong accolades for her work here and her performance is already drawing early Oscar buzz as Best Actress.

If you are a fan of superbly written character driven films, then I urge you to head down to the Paramount Theatre where Blue Jasmine is playing exclusively.

Have a great weekend everyone, see you at the movies.



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New out on DVD/Blu-ray this week

New out on DVD/Blu-ray for Tuesday August 20.

     Epic

From the creators of Ice Age and Rio, Epic tells the story of an ongoing battle between the forces of good, who keep the natural world alive, and the forces of evil, who wish to destroy it. When a teenage girl finds herself magically transported into this secret universe, she teams up with an elite band of warriors and a crew of comical, larger-than-life figures, to save their world... and ours.

Epic is actually a pretty well done and cute animated adventure tale that is sure to appeal to children and won't bore adults to death either. It's very colourful and family friendly, and it has a strong environmental message in it that will remind some people of Avatar as well as FernGully: The Last Rainforest.

The all star voice cast includes Amanda Seyfried, Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Christoph Waltz, Chris O'Dowd, Aziz Ansari, Jason Sudeikis, Beyoncé and Steven Tyler.

I didn't expect much from this film, but was pleasantly surprised that it ended up holding my attention and I actually found some of it fairly entertaining. Epic is a solid piece of family entertainment. Give it a look.

     Amour

Georges and Anne are in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, Anne has an attack, and the couple's bond of love is severely tested.

Boy, it sure took a long time for this film to get released on DVD. It seems like forever ago that I watched this highly acclaimed French language drama. Amour was directed by Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke (Funny Games, The White Ribbon) and it won the coveted Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. It also went on to receive 5 Academy Awards nominations this past year and captured the prize for Best Foreign Language Film. 

Emmanuelle Riva gave an absolutely heartwrenching performance in this film and at the age of 85, she became the oldest Best Actress nominee in Oscar history. Amour is deserving of its many accolades to a degree. It is an exceptionally well staged and brilliantly acted drama, there's no doubt about that, but it is also very sad and extremely depressing to sit through. This will not be a film for everyone and I feel like you definitely have to be in the mood to be put through an emotional wringer with this one. 

I think the audience for this film will likely be people who appreciate very true to life, character driven dramas full of honest and raw emotion. Amour is not a movie that intends to entertain people but rather just drop them into these people's lives and observe how they cope with this tragic and heartbreaking circumstance. Death is something we all will face at some point and this film portrays it in an unflinching manner. This will be a tough one for some people to watch.

I thought Amour was an excellent film, but it's not one that I would ever want to see again. Way too depressing!

     Killing Season

Deep in the Appalachian Mountains, a reclusive American military veteran (Robert De Niro) and a European tourist (John Travolta) strike up an unlikely friendship. But when the tourist's true intentions come to light, what follows is a tense battle across some of America's most forbidding landscape proving the old adage: the purest form of war is one-on-one.

Speaking of depressing, what in the heck has happened to Robert De Niro lately? With the exception of his amazing work in last year's Silver Linings Playbook, he's been in one piece of junk after another the past few years. His latest effort, the horribly inept and utterly awful film, Killing Season, just further proves that he's clueless on how to choose a good role anymore. 

I really don't want to elaborate too much about this total misfire, other than to say that it is a revenge tale that attempts to show us the so called cost of war. There is absolutely nothing subtle about its message and the movie just plods along with barely anything holding it together. This is truly one of the worst of the year. What a complete waste of time!

     What Maisie Knew

A contemporary reimagining of Henry James' novel, What Maisie Knew tells the story of a captivating little girl's struggle for grace in the midst of her parents' bitter custody battle. Told through the eyes of the title's heroine, Maisie navigates this ever-widening turmoil with a six-year-old's innocence, charm and generosity of spirit.

In my opinion, this little known film is the gem of the week. It's a touching and at times heartbreaking drama about the affects of divorce on a young child. What really makes the film work so well is the remarkable performance by young Onata Aprile, who plays Maisie. She inhabits every scene of the film, as the story is told from her perspective. She is totally natural in everything she does and we root for her as she has to display so much resilience in dealing with her neglectful parents, the hard-partying rock star Susanna (Julianne Moore) and the self-obsessed art dealer Beale (Steve Coogan). 

I was so mad at these loser parents for treating her the way that they did by not giving her the proper love and support all children truly require. There's a nice moment when we see Maisie open up and flourish when she develops a bond with her mother's new husband Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgård). He's charming and pays more attention to Maisie and seems to care more about her than her own parents do. 

What Maisie Knew does a tremendous job of avoiding trite sentimentality. There are no easy answers in situations like these and the film offers us insight into a child's feelings and how they must cope with all of this. It's very well done.

I highly recommend What Maisie Knew to anyone who enjoys serious minded emotional dramas. 

Also out this week is the goofy comedy Scary Movie 5, the horror film No One Lives, the WWII drama Emperor featuring Tommy Lee Jones and Matthew Fox, the environmental documentary Revolution, the acclaimed French Canadian drama I Killed My Mother, the comedy Rapture-Palooza with Anna Kendrick and Craig Robinson, the family drama Will starring Bob Hoskins and Damian Lewis and the awesome 3rd season of HBO's Boardwalk Empire.

New out on DVD/Blu-ray is brought to you by Leo's Videos, 2680 Pandosy St. (250) 861-8437



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