Pick of the Day: RPL Films

Got a trio of dandy music-themed films at the RPL Theatre this weekend. Tonight at 7 p.m. and tomorrow at 9 p.m. Neil Young: The Trunk Show is playing. It’s directed by Jonathan Demme. As a filmmaker, Demme is best-known for the classic 1991 thriller The Silence of the Lambs. But he also has a previous concert film on Neil Young to his credit (2006’s Heart of Gold) and in 1984 he directed Stop Making Sense which featured the Talking Heads. Here’s the Trunk Show trailer.

Screening tonight at 9 p.m. and tomorrow at 7 p.m. is Patti Smith: Dream of Life. This 2008 documentary is directed by Steven Sebring, and explores the life and work of Smith who emerged in the early ’70s as one of the leading figures of the American punk scene and has since gone on to make her mark as a singer-songwriter, poet and visual artist. Here’s the trailer.

Finally, July 31 at 7 p.m. and Aug. 1 at 9 p.m. there’s the acclaimed 2009 documentary by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman Soundtrack for a Revolution which examines the role of music in the American Civil Rights Movement. Featured are performances and interviews with artists like Wyclef Jean, The Roots and John Legend. Here’s the trailer.

As far as live music goes, the Polymaths are playing at O’Hanlon’s Pub tonight. Backing them up is the new Regina group LoveAct.

Pick of the Day: Exit Through the Gift Shop

In contrast to tagging, which is more or less the equivalent of a dog marking its territory by lifting its leg and peeing, graffiti has a long and noble history in Western society (dating back to the time of ancient Greece and Rome) and can be a highly effective way subverting dominant political/economic ideology and giving voice to marginalized viewpoints.

The key, of course, is for the artist to pick their target wisely and create thought-provoking imagery and/or text that will inspire those who view it to think more deeply about the issue that’s in play. If the artist does that then, in my mind, the graffiti they produce shouldn’t be condemned outright but rather should be regarded as an outlet for promoting freedom of expression.

At the outset of this British documentary, French videographer Thierry Guetta is intent on profiling the work of well-known graf artists like American Shepard Fairey (DogBlog) and the anonymous Brit known as Banksy. But as the film progresses, Guetta comes under Banksy’s wing, and morphs into a street artist himself named Mr. Brainwash.

Exit Through the Gift Shop plays at the RPL Theatre tonight at 9 p.m. Here’s the trailer.

“The Last Airbender” is THAT bad

Because of the brilliancy of a couple of his films (“The Sixth Sense”, “Unbreakable”), I’ve always been willing to give M. Night Shyamalan the benefit of the doubt.

That ends now.

“The Last Airbender” is about as bad as other Summer fiascos such as “Jonah Hex”, “SATC2” and “Grown Ups”, only considerably more expensive (it reportedly cost over 250 million dollars.) “Airbender” crams a full season of the TV show that inspired the movie in two hours by having the actors spitting chunks of the plot in between action set pieces. This is done with such little concern for the plot denuenment, “Airbender” frequently doesn’t make any sense, and you don’t see Shyamalan losing any sleep on it.

Even by conceding that audiences are not looking for stories, but special effects, “Airbender” comes short. Don’t bother wasting three extra dollars for barely-there 3-D. Because of the extra layer between you and the screen, you’ll perceive the movie as extra dark, for no good reason.

Perhaps the most obscene aspect of “The Last Airbender” is the shameless set up for a sequel. Will it happen? Actually, there is a chance, as Shyamalan latest has made over 32 million dollars since opening day. Can film critics compete against the hype? Because  of dishonest movies like “Airbender”, it’s worth the try.

Concert Review: Star Wars In Concert Brandt Centre June 30

“So, do you want to get your picture taken with Darth Vader?” Yes, I know. I’m a horrible Dad.

For there are a whole lot of other things to have your son photographed with in the Brandt Centre’s main concourse … there’s the models of Yoda, Chewbacca, C-3P0, some of the light sabers, costumes of the generals and warriors … enough stuff to keep a Star Wars fan in awe until the lights go down at 7:05 for Star Wars In Concert.

The event features a 60-some piece orchestra and choir playing selections from the three Star Wars movies and three other ones (The Phantom Menace, The Attack of the Clones and The Revenge of the Sith) for which I needed years of therapy to erase from my mind. John Williams scored the soundtracks for all six, so they’re good, if not totally recognizable (the music from the other three movies.).

My date for the night was my six-year-old son, Eric, who had never been to a concert before — well, he had gone to the Regina Folk Festival a couple of times, and he was pretty impressed with the spectacle, as was a good portion of Regina — I’d say they sold about 5.500 tickets — not a sellout, but a bit better than three quarters full. There were a few dressed as their favourite characters — though nobody seems to choose mine, the food server at the Death Star canteen …

courtesy the genius of Eddie Izzard

On one hand, it’s another way for George Lucas to earn a few more paydays from the Star Wars franchise. And as paydays go, it stands to be a lucrative one. There’s enough people with enough fondness for their past — and Star Wars, an integral part of their past — that people such as Anthony Daniels (the evening’s narrator and who played C-3PO in all six movies) can make a comfortable living. While re-editing the movies to provide a common narrative for the songs may be a bit confusing, in the end, it seems to be something well thought out.

About the only sour note for me happened during the encore. The orchestra played the Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back, and the massive video camera caught several members of the horn section wearing Saskatchewan Roughrider ball caps. Big cheers erupted from the audience when they say that — a totally Pavlovian response, to be sure, but I was a little alarmed. When did Rider fans accept, and even embrace that they were embodiments of evil?

Pick of the Day: The Trotsky

Didn’t get a rave review from Jorge in our June 17 issue, but the premise behind the film is certainly interesting. It’s about a relatively privileged young Westmount man (Jay Baruchel) who decides he’s the reincarnation of famed Bolshevik revolutionary Leon Trotsky.

The ice pick reference at the end of Jorge’s review, by the way, refers to how Trotsky was assassinated by a Stalinist agent while living in exile in Mexico in 1940.  The Trotsky plays tonight and Saturday night at the RPL Theatre at 9:15 p.m., and Friday and Sunday night at 7 p.m. Here’s the trailer. (YouTube)

And if you’re in the mood for a double-bill, Roman Polanski’s latest film The Ghostwriter is at the RPL tonight and Saturday night at 7 p.m., and Friday and Sunday night at 9 p.m. It’s about a writer who becomes involved in political intrigue when he signs on to ghost-write the biography of a retired British PM played by Pierce Brosnan. Here’s the trailer. (YouTube)

Musicwise, the Bull North are playing a free show on the Scarth Street Mall at noon. Tonight at O’Hanlon’s Pub, Calgary indie-pop band Jane Vain headline a gig that also features the Valleys. At the Exchange/Club, there’s a gig by a band called Caught Off Guard.

Pick of the Day: Reel Injun

Hitting the streets in a few hours will be our June 17 issue. It should be up on the website shortly as well. Once it is, I’ll post a link to the story I did on this documentary that screens tonight and Saturday night at the RPL Theatre at 7 p.m., and Friday and Sunday night at 9 p.m.

It’s directed by Neil Diamond. No, not that Neil Diamond. This Neil Diamond is a Cree filmmaker who grew up in northern Quebec. Chockful of clips from old Westerns dating back to the early days of Hollywood, Reel Injun explores with wit and an appropriate level of dismay Hollywood’s pathetic track record when it comes to representing Aboriginal people in films. Here’s a link to the article I wrote. And here’s the trailer. (YouTube)

Also on tonight is a townhall meeting at Wesley United Church (3913 Hillsdale) on the topic Climate Change & the G20: Not Business As Usual which will feature speakers with first-hand knowledge of how climate shifts are harming developing countries around the world.

Musicwise, Montreal indie post-punk band Nightwood at O’Hanlon’s Pub. David J. Taylor is at Rock Creek out in east Regina, and country legend Ray Price is at Casino Regina. To get the juices flowing for the first gig here’s the video for Nightwood’s song “The Bikerider” (YouTube)

Pick of the Day: The Secret in Their Eyes

In contrast to his review of the new Sex in the City flick, upon which he bestowed zero out of five dogs, our intrepid film reviewer Jorge Castillo quite liked this movie which plays at the RPL Theatre tonight at 9 .m. (and Saturday/Sunday at 7 and  9 p.m.).

Here’s a link to his review in our June 3 issue (scroll down to read). And here’s the trailer (YouTube)

If you’re in the mood for a double-bill, the Canadian comedy Control.Alt.Delete is screening tonight at 7 p.m., and Saturday/Sunday at 9:15 and 7 p.m. Here’s the trailer

Pick of the Day: 48 Hour Film Frenzy

In the last couple of days you may have seen small bands of people roaming around downtown Regina with cameras, boom mics and other film-type equipment.  Yes, as far as moderate to big-budget Hollywood productions go, Saskatchewan’s film industry, which as late as 2008 was generating upwards of $70 million in annual revenue, is in the tank. But that doesn’t mean no one in the province is making movies.

Each year, the Saskatchewan Filmpool invites teams of local filmmakers to compete in the creation of short 16 mm films. The catch being that the teams only have 48 hours to script, shoot and edit their mini-masterpieces. Tonight, the fruits of their abbreviated labours are being screened at the Filmpool (301-1822 Scarth St.) beginning at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free, and a panel of judges will assess the entries and award one lucky team the covetted Filmpool Cup.

Should be fun.

Pick of the Day: Defendor

In our May 20 issue, Jorge had a lukewarm review of this movie which plays tonight at the RPL Theatre at 7 p.m. Here’s a link to the review that he wrote. After viewing the trailer (YouTube) , I can totally see where Jorge got the Travis Bickle reference.

If you’re in the mood for a double-bill, and up to seeing two flicks about mentally-troubled individuals, Greenberg (which stars Ben Stiller) is on at 9 p.m. Here’s the trailer.

Pick Of The Day: The Eclipse

Not to be confused with the New Moon Twilight saga stuff about vampires and whatnot. Although this movie does have a supernatural theme. It’s a 2009 production from Ireland that sees a widowed teacher (Claran Hinds) raising two young children on his own.

Following his wife’s death, he begins to see and hear strange things in the family home. While volunteering at a literary festival, he meets a writer (Iben Hjejle) who has authored books on ghosts and other supernatural phenomena. In her, he finds a kindred spirit. But she’s simultaneously involved with a famous novelist (Aidan Quinn) who wants to leave his wife to be with her. But she has plenty of misgivings about him.

This combination ghost/love story screens at the RPL Theatre tonight at 7 p.m. Here’s the trailer (YouTube)

Pick of the Day: George Ryga’s Hungry Hills

In our May 6 issue, Vanda Schmockel did an article on this revisionist Western directed by Regina’s Rob King which opens a four-night run at the RPL Theatre tonight at 9:15 p.m.

The use of the author’s name in the title, by the way, isn’t an affectation. It’s driven by circumstances.

Born in Alberta in 1922 of Ukrainian immigrant parents, Ryga died in 1987. He’s best-known for his 1967 play The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, and wrote  a novel called Hungry Hills in 1963. 

Both for legal purposes related to copyright, plus marketing reasons, it was almost a necessity for producers to add Ryga’s name to the title. Twenty years before Ryga published Hungry Hills British author Daphne du Maurier wrote a book called Hungry Hill that was later made into a big-budget Hollywood film.

It’s a romnace set in the Irish County of Cork (so named because it’s inhabitants were prolific producers of corks for wine bottles and what not, I wonder, or because they liked to get corked?) and follows the exploits of a family of Anglo-Irish landowners.

If you read Vanda’s article, you’ll learn that Ryga’s story has a rural family theme too. So copyright had to be a consideration. Plus, there’s an obvious  marketing upside. Imagine some poor woman trying to convince her boyfriend/huband to see Hungry Hills?

Many men, I suspect, would make the not unreasonable mistake of assuming they we’re being invited to see Hungry Hill and snort in reply “A movie based on some trifle that Daphne du Maurier wrote in 1943. Puhleaze honey!”

Musicwise tonight, the highlight is Hannah Georgas’ performance at O’Hanlon’s Pub with Colleen Brown and Dave Vertesi of Hey Ocean fame backing her up. Here’s a link to a preview James Brotheridge did in our May 6 issue. And if you’re curious about the video for “Thick Skin” that he talks about “here it is” (YouTube)

Pick of the Day: Grown Up Movie Star

If you check out the cut-line for the story Stephen LaRose did on this movie (which plays at the RPL tonight at 7 p.m.) in the print version of our April 22 issue (here’s a link to the on-line story) you’ll see it reads: AWARD-WINNING AND DISTURBING The old men on this paper are very uncomfortable with this image. 

I don’t feel that way myself. Yeah, the girl does look pretty young. In the movie, in fact, she’s 15 And she’s definitely going through a Lolita phase where she’s exploring her sexual power.

But I know the actress who plays her. And I know she’s not 15. She’s not even 20. In fact, she’s almost 25. That’s still young. But not indecently young to be exploring her sexuality. 

Having said that, I saw Grown Up Movie Star Friday night and parts of it definitely were  discomforting. As Tatiana described it in the article, “Ruby is lonely and looking for attention, and she’s not getting it from her dad, so she’s getting attention the only way she knows how.”

When a girl/woman does that, it’s never an easy thing to watch. Because Lord knows, there’s no shortage of boys/men out there eager to take advantage. Here’s the trailer (YouTube)

Midnight Movie Marathon

I do OK with working out, but an actual marathon would kill me.

Four movies in a row on a Friday? That’s a marathon I am far better suited for.

Rainbow Cinemas is having a midnight movie marathon this Friday for the MS Society. Starting at midnight, they’ll be showing four movies – When in Rome, She’s Out of My League, Green Zone, and Shutter Island.

Pledge sheets are available at the Rainbow Cinemas box office. You need at least $25 to get in. That gives you admission, unlimited popcorn and drinks, other food, and bragging rights.

They only have the space for 150 people, so the first people to enter their pledge forms will get in. So far, they’ve received one.

They expect the last movie to finish up by 8:30 a.m. On a side note, watching Shutter Island starting at 6:30 a.m. is kinda crazy. Any film as indebted to Vertigo as that one should normally be watched while fully awake.

Pick of the Day: Creation

I wonder if anyone’s shown up so far to picket this flick.? It concludes a four-day run at the RPL Theatre tonight with a 9 p.m. screening.

If not, will anyone show up tonight, I wonder? It is Sunday, after all. Sunday being the traditional day of rest and worship by Christians in emulation of God resting on the seventh day after labouring for six to create all existence. Us included. And all other life on Earth. Although under Christian belief we’re the only ones created in God’s image. Which makes us pretty special.

Yeah, we’re pretty heavily integrated into the web of life on Earth. And we look, act and behave similar to a whole pile of other animals. But we’re a step or two above them. Not Gods ourselves, admittedly. But made in His image. His children. And thus entitled to exercise dominion over all the beasts, fish and plants that God placed on Earth for our benefit.

Or not.

That was what Charles Darwin eventually concluded after several decades of intensive research into the biological origins of different species of animal life on Earth. In 1859 he published On the Origin of Species to immense scientific acclaim, and immense controversy in the large and influential Christian community.

Governed  by the principle of natural selection, which tends to preserve and promote any improvements in genetic fitness that species make, we humans hadn’t been created by God in His image. We’d evolved from a lower form of primate.

Now, personally, I think monkeys are kind of cool. Yeah, they don’t have our creature comforts. But they can do a lot of the same stuff we do. And they don’t have to constrain themselves with all the social codes and conventions that tie us down. If they want to take a crap, then pick up their poo and throw it at someone. they do. Us? No way. You’d be hauled off to jail for sure.

Still, going from God the Father to a chimp as the primogenitor of humanity was a leap a lot of people weren’t interested in making. Heck, there’s still millions out there who are fervent Creationists. It’s not a huge movement in Regina, not like it is in the American Bible Belt, but pockets of support exist. Pretty much anytime we run something poking fun at Creationist beliefs and advancing the scientific view on the origins of life we get an indignant letter to the editor or two.

So they’re out there. And some hardcores might decide to do a little muscle flexing like 200 or 300 did with their Stations of the Cross procession through  downtown Regina on Good Friday.

Starring Paul Bethany and Jennifer Connelly, Creation examines the inner turmoil Darwin experienced before deciding to publish his theory of evolution, and his relationship with his wife Emma. Here’s the trailer (YouTube)

Pick of the Day: The White Ribbon

I’m on a bit of a war-themed roll here so I might as well keep it up for one more day. Screening at the RPL Theatre at 9 p.m. is this German language film (with English subtitles) by Michael Haneke. Shot in black-and-white, The White Ribbon is set in a German village on the eve of WWI, and looks at the children who managed to survive that conflagration and later grew up to be the generation that permitted, and even welcomed, Hitler’s rise to power.

This is a complicated issue as a lot of things happened at the close of WWI and in the interwar period that created conditions in Germany that made Germans receptive to the rise of Nazism. Yeah, I think there was sort of an innate Wagnerian sense of Teutonic superiority and mythology that was operating. But with all the demands for territorial concessions, reparations and military occupation that France in particular, and Britain too, made on Germany following WWI, the Allies helped engender a sense of desperation in the German people. And when people are desperate, they become susceptible to radical influences.

During Armistice negotiations then U.S. President Woodrow Wilson called for a “Peace Between Equals”. The agreement that was signed, and its aftermath, were anything but. And we played a big price down the road.

The White Ribbon took top prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Here’s the trailer. (YouTube) And if you’re in the mood for a double-bill, A Town Called Panic is playing at 7 p.m. Here’s a link to a post Shane did on our old blog on this animated feature from Belgium.    

Musicwise, DFA with Tarantuja and Robot v Monster are at Fainting Goat Restaurant. It’s an all-ages gig. Doors are at 6 p.m. $5. And no, I’m not sure about the Death From Above allusion either.