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Archive for July, 2013

‘Computer Chess’ looks great but fails to get the audience in checkmate

computer chess posterThe TIFF Bell Lightbox takes a step back to the low fi days of computer programming starting this weekend with the underwhelming “Computer Chess”. The surreal and subdued comedy strives to obtain the levels of classic Christopher Guest productions in its quirkiness of world building, but the question becomes is it witty and engaging enough to earn that comparison?

Computer Chess

Starring: Wiley Wiggins, Patrick Riester, Freddy Martinez, Myles Paige

Written and Directed by Andrew Bujalski

Set over the course of a weekend tournament for chess software programmers thirty-some years ago, Computer Chess transports viewers to a nostalgic moment when the contest between technology and the human spirit seemed a little more up for grabs.  (more…)

Spring Breakers is a must own on Blu-ray

spring breakers bluNew on Blu-ray from VVS Films is the tantalizing and titillating new film from “Kids” scribe Harmony Korine, the heavily buzzed about “Spring Breakers”. Starring a pair of former Disney child stars, a ‘Pretty Little Liar’ and Harmony’s own wife as bikini-clad bandits who desperately want to leave behind their humdrum college lives for sun, drugs and the allure of Spring Break. Spring Breakers has grown with infamy over the explicit nature of its subject matter and its stars as well as the nature of where Franco’s character truly came from, but the film succeeds on its own merits and is one of 2013’s best offerings so far.

Spring Breakers Blu-Ray Review

Starring Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, Selena Gomez, Gucci Mane and James Franco

Written and Directed by Harmony Korine

Four sexy college girls, Faith (Gomez) Candy (Hudgens) Brit (Benson) and Cotty (Korine), plan to fund their spring break getaway by burglarizing a popular fast food shack. But that’s only the beginning. At a motel room rager, fun reaches its legal limit and the girls are arrested and taken to jail. Hungover and clad only in bikinis, the girls appear before a judge but are bailed out unexpectedly by Alien (Franco) An infamous local thug and rapper, Alien takes them under his wing and leads them on the wildest Spring Break trip in history. Rough on the outside but with a soft spot inside, Alien wins over the hearts of the young Spring Breakers, and leads them on a Spring Break they never could have imagined.

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‘The Newsroom’ crackles with life on Blu-ray

the-newsroomTV veteran Aaron Sorkin returns with a new show, his first since the ill-fated yet excellently written Saturday Night Live take off “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”, and this time he has taken his take on the inner workings of a network TV newsroom to the friendly confines of HBO with “The Newsroom”. The hit HBO show recently returned with its second season on the cable giant, so let`s delve in to the first season set to see if it`s worth your hard earned dollars.

The Newsroom Season 1

Starring: Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher Jr., Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn with Terry Crews, Jane Fonda and Sam Waterston

Created by Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin’s latest drama is set at a fictional cable news channel where anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) leads a group of reporters and staff striving to make a hard-hitting news program. After a recent blow up at a college lecture, anchor McAvoy returns to work to find that his support team, minus a handful of devotees, are all fleeing to the late night news program. McAvoy also inherits a new producer, his former flame MacKenzie McHale (Mortimer) and number one Jim Harper (Gallagher Jr), who is immediately smitten with Maggie Jordan (Pill). Also in the newsroom is Neal Sampat (Patel), late night producer Don Keefer (Sadoski), gorgeous and brilliant business reporter Sloan Sabbith (Munn) and the man over seeing it all Charlie Skinner (Waterston).

newsroom Season_1_Episode_5 (more…)

‘Blackfish’ will fascinate TIFF Bell Lightbox audiences starting this weekend

blackfish poster


Starting this week at the TIFF Bell Lightbox is the documentary that caused quite the splash at this year’s Hot Docs film festival, “Blackfish”. When director Gabriela Cowperthwaite began investigating the death of a trainer who was dragged to her death during a “Dine with Shamu” show at SeaWorld, she soon found the initial story gave way to a far more shocking and further-reaching situation that plumbed the depths of a billion-dollar industry.


Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite

A killer whale linked to three trainer deaths over two decades, Tilikum is the backbone of the story presented in Blackfish. However, Cowperthwaite discovered it wasn’t just this particular whale; there have been multiple cases of Orca attacks on trainers in parks around the world, although never in the wild. Featuring testimonies from experts and trainers, and with never-before-seen footage,  (more…)

Dragon Girls Review (Dork Shelf)

Originally published at Dork Shelf


Dragon-GirlsDragon Girls

The Tagu Kung Fu School is located right next to the Shaolin Temple Monastery (the birthplace of the famed martial art) and is home to over 20,000 studentsDragon Girls follows three young female students at the school, living far away from their homes and families. They sacrifice the luxuries of childhood like days off, playtime and seeing their parents for the honor, respect and skill they will gain from their training. The physical and mental exhaustion and constant drive for perfection weigh heavily on the young warriors as they learn to cope with constant pressure to perform from every corner.

It’s easy to tell why director Inigo Westmeier has chosen her three subjects, as they run the spectrum of the students at the school. There’s the nine year old prodigy, whose father will only visit if she wins first place. Then there are the two teenagers, one who still tries hard every day but is just not as gifted as the rest, and the other, a returned run away from the school who doesn’t want to be there. Through the lives of these girls, and several others, we see the almost cult like attitude that the school fosters in their pupils. It’s a fascinating watch, and the girls are engaging onscreen presences.

dragon_girls_02The living quarters are in near squalor and the kids sleep in bunks beds with double digit roommates in each room. They are allowed to shower only twice a week and have to resort to a bucket and a tap at the end of corridor to scrub clean each morning. But the dedication to their craft of martial arts carries them through. 

Till Next Time

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‘The Act of Killing’ is a gut-wrenching 2 hours of cinema

the-act-of-killingStarting this past weekend at the TIFF Bell Lightbox is one of the most controversial documentaries of the year, “The Act of Killing”. The film follows around a group of killers, that have somehow become revered figures in their native Indonesia, as they relate their stories of death and mayhem with grins and smiles upon their faces as hey reminisce about the ‘good old days’ when they were responsible for the death of thousands.

The Act of Killing

Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer

After the 1965 military coup against the Sukarno government, Indonesia was overrun by marauding bands of paramilitaries who indulged in the mass murder of more than one million alleged communists. These victims included ethnic Chinese and intellectuals and left behind a horrifying record of atrocities that, ironically, has enshrined these killers in their nation’s history as patriotic heroes. Director Joshua Oppenheimer and his collaborators provocatively explore this dark chapter of Indonesia’s history by enlisting a group of former paramilitaries to re-enact their crimes in the style of the Hollywood films that they love. Gleefully recreating some of the many murders they have committed with the aid of sets, costumes and pyrotechnics, the proud band of killers exhibits a fixation on style over substance — as well as an utter lack of remorse over their actions — that is both monstrous and mesmerizing.

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‘Casting By’ is a informative look at a largely unkown Hollywood icon

Casting-byStarting this weekend at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema is the new documentary about the unsung heroes of the filmmaking process, the casting director, and the impact and evolution of the craft, “Casting By”. The film also serves to tell the story of the most influential and famous members of the casting world Marion Dougherty. In December of 2011, the film industry sadly lost Marion Dougherty and though most film fans would not recognize her by name; her work revolutionized the acting and casting industry.

Casting By

Directed by Tom Donahue

Dougherty began her career as a casting agent in the 50s for a collection of New York based TV shows, including the Kraft Television Theatre, Route 66 and Naked City. During the studio era of film making that lasted into the early 60’s, casting was done by surveying the usual crop of studio-signed actors who were often given roles based upon their looks and personality versus their talent. However, Dougherty recognized that there was a large pool of actors in New York’s off-Broadway productions and acting schools and was the first person to cast unknown actors based upon character instead of appearance. But perhaps the best treat in this revelatory film is the massive collection of footage, screen tests and movie clips featuring legendary actors such as James Dean, Christopher Walken, Jon Voight and Maureen Stapleton, before their fame.

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