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Archive for February 2009

Night of the Hunter

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Night of the Hunter

“What religion do you profess, preacher?”

“The religion the Almighty and me worked out betwixt us.”

And so we learn the nature of one peculiar man of God and his relationship with the almighty that should strike fear into all those whom have sinned before his eyes.

Night of the Hunter presents preacher Harry Powel (Robert Mitchum), a refined southern gentleman of the cloth who has been leaving a long trail of dead ‘sinners’ in his wake. Rather than remain inconspicuous and stealthy as a common killer would, Powel has assumed the persona of a traveling evangelical preacher. A charming and compelling man, he is always eager preach the good word and to tell all those around him the story of ‘Right Hand, Left Hand. Good and Evil’. Tattooed on Powel’s hands are the words ‘love’ and ‘hate’, and the battle between the two is always a real crowd pleaser. It was with the left hand that Cain struck the blow that laid his brother low. H-A-T-E. However, the right hand has veins that go straight to the soul of man. L-O-V-E.

On the search for ten thousand dollars a former cell mate hid from the police, Powel finds his newest prey in widow Willa Harper (Shelley Winters), the widow of his aforementioned cell mate. Doing away with the husband was easy business, seeing as how the state took care of the killing for him but finding the money and outwitting Willa’s two cunning children prove to be more of a challenge than he predicted.

The idea of a movie monster is classically personified by your standard boogie men like Jason Voorhees, the Wolfman, and Freddy Kruger. Beasts and ghouls who violently kill without remorse or compassion. Then there are your more cerebral movie monsters. Characters who still kill without mercy, but fill every scene there are in with a state of discomfort and unrest, and not just at the sight of seeing them kill. Jaws. Anton Chigurh. Heath Ledger’s Joker. These villains only have to show up on screen and the audience is on the edge of their seats. Harry Powel could probably count the number of people he has killed on both of his tattooed hands. His only weapon is a tiny switchblade. Yet still, every time he is alone with another character, be it man, woman, or child, you always feel like he is moments away from doing something horrible. It is the subtle implication of murders yet to happen that makes the film so chilling. All that is needed is the idea and the audience fills in the rest.

Most unsettling about the film and this character is the fact that this is not your ordinary killer. This is a man of God. A good man, and an upright citizen. Certainly in Powel’s mind, a monster he is not, though he is a killer all the same. In fact, Powel may be the most morally incorruptible murderer in film history. Even after convincing Willa to marry him, he refuses to consummate their marriage. “The female body was made for begettin’ children and not for the lust of men,” he says. Perhaps it is his inflated sense of divinity, but Powel has deemed himself an eradicator of sin, never a perpetrator. He is the twisted and broken manifestation of all those stories of the Bible that we all assumed could never be used to justify something as horrible as murder, but to Powel, it is only natural to deduce such things from scripture. God, you see, does not mind the killings. His book is full of them.

One man and God worked out a religion between them. One where the rules apply only to those who had a hand in crafting it. The rest of us need only be told where we stand, and woe is he who challenges the preacher of such evangel. You know you’re in trouble if God is on the other side of that blade and on his hand are the letters that spell your fate. H-A-T-E.

– J.D. Renaud

J.D. Renaud has no formal education in film, but that is more than evident upon meeting and/or seeing him. A purveyor of all things eccentric, he prides himself on being a guinea pig test subject for any new form of media he is given. He currently lives in Winnipeg Manitoba with his go-go dancer roommate.

Written by thesilentmajoritysays

February 27, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Posted in crime, thriller

Beowulf

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Beowulf (2007)

“The time of heroes is dead”

To be honest, it was the idea of a proper 3D film that got me into the theatre, opening night, to see Beowulf. To my great surprise and unwavering delight, the film proves itself to be more than pokes the eye, if you catch my drift.

The premise: The oldest English language poem turned into a movie using state-of-the-art motion capture technology and digital 3D. The film could have easily been an empty exercise in computer generated wizardry, but the filmmakers did not sell themselves short. They made a film of great depth and significance. Which despite its glossy, 3D paint job, stands up as a genuine cinematic experience.

At its core, Beowulf is about heroism. Throughout the film, the audience is presented with various notions on the nature of ‘heroism’. When we are introduced to Beowulf, he is gripped to the mast of his Viking vessel, standing, as it plows through wind, waves, and rain–He exclaims to his concerned friend Wiglaf, “The sea is my mother! She would never take me back to her murky womb!”

Beowulf is fearless.

When he and his fellow warriors strike land, Beowulf announces to its people, “They say you have a monster here. They say your lands are cursed. I am Beowulf and I’m here to kill your monster.”

Beowulf is courageous.

These are standard definitions of heroism. The character of Beowulf, however, is far more complex than a series of adjectives. As the narrative progresses, the layers of Beowulf’s proverbial armor are stripped, and what we are left with is a man whom the audience may or may not call heroic. This is the genius of Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman’s script; What could have been a conventional, badass, take on Beowulf purging evil from the lands, it choses to examine his heroism in relationship to the evil he is fighting. As you’ll discover, evil is not necessarily a hideous monster, but human fallibility. And so:

Beowulf is human.

Making use of legends, tall tales, folklore, and myths, Beowulf’s character, and the concept of heroism, is dissected before your eyes. While it is an unquestionable triumph in terms of digital cinema, it’s remains a visceral examination of the myth of hero. It is not only a breath-taking, visually stunning masterpiece of action cinema, it is legitimately thought provoking. A feast for not only the eyes, but the brain as well. That’s always nice.

I tell friends: I came for the 3D and stayed for the story. In fact, as proven by its DVD release, Beowulf is a film which could have been released without the 3D gimmick. In fact, I wish it had been, as people tend to remember it as some digital experiment rather than a proper film.

Beowulf doesn’t poke at your eyes, it pokes at your brain, and this is the reason Beowulf transcends its genre, into a meaningful piece of art.

– Alex Lyons

Alex Lyons studied English and History at the University of Guelph, where he acquired keen insights into late Victorian history, and its literature. This education, of course, serves no purpose here. Alex still lives in Guelph, and thinks of Jack the Ripper often.

Written by thesilentmajoritysays

February 27, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Posted in action, fantasy

Strange Girl vol 1 – Girl Afraid

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Strange Girl vol 1 – Girl Afraid

Strange Girl is a fast-paced, action oriented, bloody, and funny story about a girl left behind by her pious family following the rapture. The speed at which the story is told is astonishing. The main character Beth Black, is established as a, get this, strange girl who is brash and independent. This quickly collides head on with her ultra-pious family which is shown to be all judgemental and disapproving of Beth and her “gang of roller-blading hooligan friends.” The Rapture has arrived.

Skip ten years: Beth has a job as Belial’s bar wench, she has a little blue dwarf demon for a pal, and she can perform magic through demonic incantations.

Through the action, witty banter, and countless SHRA-KOOMS, FA-BOOMS and SHOOOOOMS, Beth’s story is played out: escape Belial’s fiery grasp, get halfway around the world to the heavenly portal at the Vatican to see if Beth is worthy to get into Heaven after 10 years of demonic servitude. This of course will be no easy task, as the world as once known is long gone. Earth is now ruled by the legions of Hell, and neither God nor Satan are anywhere to be found.

While Strange Girl delivers some decent comedic moments, and enough action to keep the pages turning, there is another more obvious overtone: Religion. The writing is obviously very personal to Remender, as it seems that sometimes Beth will rant, questioning religious belief, life’s purpose, and God’s intentions. The nice little twist to this type of dialogue in Strange Girl is that all this dialogue is made with the ultimate knowledge that God does exist in that universe. It is one thing to discuss the value of faith versus non-belief, but it is interesting to see a character ponder the subject with the knowledge that the man upstairs is indeed upstairs.

Remender has a way of trading off palpable material for action in a way truly pleasing to the audience. Eric Nguyen’s kinetic and funky style compliment the tone and pacing of this story. Every panel almost looks to be in total motion, and each issue seems to speed up as the pages turn.

Strange Girl is its following. Although what the book has to say is not presented in any sort of subtle or graceful way, it speaks loudly. Strange Girl expresses itself with enough humour, explosions, and car chases to be heard. If you haven’t figured this out yet, the message is simple: dive into Strange Girl.

– Dillon Taylor

Dillon Taylor is a born-again atheist with very few qualifications to do much of anything. He graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a degree in Kinesiology, and currently lives in Korea where he splits his time between: eating, drinking, eating, sleeping, drinking, and shallow attempts to expand his mind. Oh, he teaches English too.

Written by thesilentmajoritysays

February 25, 2009 at 4:20 AM

Posted in action, comedy, fantasy

Tagged with , ,

Danger: Diabolik

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Danger: Diabolik

The term anti-hero gets tossed around quite a bit without much attention paid. The definition has become so muddled over time that there is no clear cut example, except for someone whose goals and methods do not make them a hero, but the story in which they are the protagonist makes them out to be one, anyway. Of course there are many interpretations, but every time I try to think of a character who personifies the anti-hero, one name always comes up: Diabolik.

Diabolik (John Phillip Law) is a rich playboy with a batcave-esque hideout full of black and white Jaguars, who steals things for seemingly no reason at all. Clearly he is exceedingly wealthy, (as evidenced by the fact that he has a giant rotating bed covered in money), has a hot woman by his side (Marisa Mell), and really could not have a care in the world. So, to kill the boredom, he takes it upon himself to make every other rich person’s life miserable by stealing vast sums of money from the police, the mob, and anyone else who may have “vast sums” of anything that Diabolik might want.

He steals from the rich to give to himself. That’s my kind of anti-hero.

Based on the Italian comic character of the 1960s, Danger: Diabolik was revered in its time as one of the most faithful comic adaptations ever made. Not too hard to see why, though. Comics and films in post-WW2 America were very pro-country, pro-patriotism with good role models, Truth, justice, the American way, and all that. In Italy, the good people having had their asses handed to them and wiping the taste of Mussolini’s fascism out of their mouths, the idea of an anti-hero, someone who would steal from the government just for the hell of it, seemed gleefully rebellious and all too welcome to the counter-cultural movement at the time.

It could be argued that Diabolik does indeed commit his crimes as some form of social satire (ie. blowing up the treasury and banks to eliminate the country’s personal debts). Since he feels the police and the government are too incompetent to stop him, he has the right to do what he does and get away with it. Perhaps there really is a method and some morals behind his actions. Or, maybe he just likes to blow things up. It could go either way, really.

It is difficult to justify a character like Diabolik. He steals things because stealing things its fun. He gets into danger because danger is more exciting than doing things the safe way. He steals things that are seemingly impossible to steal just because everyone tells him they are impossible to steal. In any other movie, Diabolik would be the bad guy. He is still the bad guy in this movie, too. Only this time, he has the coolest car, the sweetest costume, and hottest girlfriend.

And in the end, no matter what their actions or intentions, the person who has those things is always somebody’s hero.

J.D. Renaud

J.D. Renaud has no formal education in film, but that is more than evident upon meeting and/or seeing him. A purveyor of all things eccentric, he prides himself on being a guinea pig test subject for any new form of media he is given. He currently lives in Winnipeg Manitoba with his go-go dancer roommate.

Written by thesilentmajoritysays

February 23, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Posted in crime, superhero

The Way of the Gun

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The Way of the Gun

Great films, like true art, demand the audience’s engagement. Which makes The Way of the Gun unique, as it does something I have seen few films do: ignore the audience. That is not to say the film alienates its audience, but rather necessitates their undivided engagement to meet. McQuarrie (writer/director) allows the viewer to make the connections, and figure out who is who, and what is what. There is no exposition in the film. The characters know the score, and act accordingly. They don’t, however, pause, and recap events for the audience.

The set-up is simple: Parker (Ryan Phillippe) and Longbaugh (Benicio Del Toro) are two drifting criminals who kidnap a surrogate mother and demand a ransom from her wealthy employers. That’s the hook. The story is far more complex and you will need to pay close attention to appreciate it all.

The Way of the Gun is a subtle film made up of nuances. It begins without any kind of formal introduction and the audience is never told who is who, or what is what. What we learn of Parker and Longbaugh, the “protagonists,” is very little. There are no scenes where they reveal themselves to the audience. There is a silent understanding between them. They communicate with glances, and they don’t waste scenes telling the audience who they are. Though detached, the film plays itself out naturally, without talking down to some invisible viewer. Instead of engaging its audience, the film wants you to engage it.

The Way of the Gun also does a terrific job at avoiding genre conventions. For instance, there is a car chase in the film which is the antithesis of car chases; instead of relying on speed to make a getaway, Parker and Longbaugh implement strategy. The chase, involving two cars, barely makes it over 10 (exhilarating) m/ph. And speaking of exhilarating, The Way of the Gun features, for my pesos, one of the best shootouts ever captured on film. It is simply breathtaking.

The Way of the Gun, released in 2000, remains a masterpiece of the crime genre; a moody, atmospheric, and richly satisfying piece. Give yourself to The Way of the Gun, and it will love and caress you on those lonely nights.

Alex Lyons

Alex Lyons studied English and History at the University of Guelph, where he acquired keen insights into late Victorian history, and its literature. This education, of course, serves no purpose here. Alex still lives in Guelph, and thinks of Jack the Ripper often.

Written by thesilentmajoritysays

February 21, 2009 at 12:01 PM

Posted in crime

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

There are times when we let ourselves become vulnerable enough to be touched or moved by something. This “something” can be anything, really: a kind gesture of a passer-by, or the most complex, and elegant piece of music you have heard. One such “something” for me was a cult-hit called The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

If you’re familiar with Wes Anderson’s films you will spot his signature style in the first seconds of The Life Aquatic – a film about a man, amidst a mid-life crisis, questing for revenge (to hunt and destroy the shark that ate his best friend), but more importantly to quell his fears of becoming obsolete, both in his public and private lives.

The Life Aquatic is a fantastic example of how what should be shown versus told, and how much more you can glean from a movie watching experience as a result. You’re guided, not directed to make connections. The viewer draws conclusions about plot points, and character relationships. There are many instances in which the dialogue can be interpreted in many ways, and other times when an awkward, over-acted delivery actually makes the moment more genuine.

A multitude of characters contribute to the growth and exposure of the centre-piece, Steve Zissou, culminating in one of the most heart-rending moments I have experienced watching a film. In one simple moment, the quest for vengeance, self-redemption and purpose is completed. This moment just hangs for the viewer to absorb. The dialogue accompanying the scene is vague enough, that it seems to ask, “Well, what do you think?” Perhaps the reason this moment is so touching is that it allows the viewer to almost experience the moment as their own and not Zissou’s.

It’s the “take what you will” quality of The Life Aquatic that makes it truly versatile in delivering a fantastic experience to the casual viewer, or the most proudly self-proclaimed Wes Anderson fanboy or girl. It may sound like I see no flaws in this film, and for the life of me, I don’t. This isn’t because there aren’t flaws, it’s because I have opened up a little more to this movie with every viewing that by now the beauty I see in it blindingly outshines its flaws.

Dillon Taylor

Dillon Taylor is a born-again atheist with very few qualifications to do much of anything. He graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a degree in Kinesiology, and currently lives in Korea where he splits his time between: eating, drinking, eating, sleeping, drinking, and shallow attempts to expand his mind. Oh, he teaches English too.

Written by thesilentmajoritysays

February 19, 2009 at 12:01 PM

Posted in comedy

Rear Window

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Rear Window

Hitchcock films get a bad reputation in many “modern” circles. His work often ignored as the iconic imagery has been replayed so often in satires and homages that the plot seems familiar, as though we’ve already seen it. Or the films are challenged as being formulaic or un-adventurous by today’s standards. But Hitchcock built the formulas and the iconic imagery never gives away the film. So as many times as it feels like you’ve seen Rear Window, it plays fresh, drawing you in wordlessly as you spy on L.B. before you begin spying on the neighbours.

REAR WINDOW is a film about paranoia and the morbid curiosity that strings out of boredom, where the slightest bits of evidence become the grandest accusations. L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart), an action photographer in his last week recuperating with a broken leg in a cast, is confined to his wheelchair, his only hobby watching the neighbours between visits from girlfriend Lisa Freemont (Grace Kelly) and his sassy nurse. As the hot summer days roll on, L.B. notices the absence of a salesman’s bed-ridden wife and suspicious behaviour from the salesman. Taking a closer look, his paranoia grows: The salesman, he concludes, murdered his wife and has disappeared her body.

With a stationary set, like L.B. you never leave the room, looking out the window with him and listening to every minute detail of his paranoid fantasy. In the beginning you have your doubts. Soon, it doesn’t matter if he’s right or wrong – something’s gone wrong in that apartment. For every piece of evidence to contradict the theory, the idea festers and becomes more suggestive. The question of “Did he kill his wife?” becomes “How did he do it?” and “How can L.B. prove it?”

So the paranoia festers as L.B. involves an old detective friend who is more than happy to find a reasonable explanation for the events and sweep them comfortably out of L.B.’s mind. But L.B. won’t let go, bringing Lisa and his Nurse into his peeping, all three of them sitting in the dark looking across the way with binoculars and a large lenses camera.

When paranoia crests, Lisa and the Nurse jump into action for evidence of misdeeds, running through leads and distracting the salesman which only sees them taken away and you left alone with L.B. in that room. Your gamble shown in the light and the last person that you want to see you’ve been playing can see you quite clearly.

And when it comes to retribution the effect is monstrously menacing. It feels unstoppable. Your fear is palatable. Your legs broken as L.B.’s. Your guilt as obvious. You looked with him. And you believed everything he said. As hopelessness and vengeance grip you, you don’t know if it was all for naught.

Did he do it? How do you know he did?

How do you know he didn’t?

– Timothy Legion

Timothy Legion is not presently read, looked to or admired. He created a newspaper (pamphlet) at his University that is fondly remembered by six people. He has not won any awards or been considered for nominations. He is wrist-deep in the Third Year of his self-imposed GLORIOUS FIVE YEAR PLAN.

Written by thesilentmajoritysays

February 18, 2009 at 12:01 PM

Posted in mystery, thriller