Montreal Film Journal

2004 LOG (4)

(2 Apr) Hellboy (2004, Guillermo del Toro) [ review ] 64

(3 Apr) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003, Marcus Nispel) 49
[ I'm no slave to the original, which I found more amusingly grotesque than scary and, while its low-rent look gave the proceedings an interesting almost documentary-like feel, this remake is so slick and tight that it's hard to hold this against it. So you got five young friends who, between a weed run in Mexico and a Skynyrd show (Freebird!), become prey to batshit crazy hicks. Don't expect any kind of character development or storytelling beyond that, do expect a lot of vile and ugly things treated with utmost insensitivity and you're in for one damn visceral ride, for better or worse. "Chainsaw ‘03" is pointless junk but it's well crafted, as are Jessica Biel's boobs, midriff and ass. I found it desperately unpleasant (the movie, not Biel's body), but that's the idea, I guess. ]

(4 Apr) The Work of Director Spike Jonze DVD (2004, Spike Jonze) 85
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(5 Apr) En Vacances (2000, Yves Hanchar) zzz
[ Frenchie cinema at its wimpiest (even Québécois actor extraordinaire Luc Picard talks in a French-from-France accent), but I got what I rented this for: love-of-my-life Jessica Paré opening her pj's and revealing her spectacular breasts. ]

(6 Apr) The Vagina Monologues (2002, Eve Ensler) 71
[ I love vagina, but it turns out I knew very little about it. Enters Eve Ensler, who travelled across the continental US to ask all kinds of women about their vaginas then wrote this funny, moving and insightful show, here captured for an HBO special. ]

(6 Apr) Splash (1984, Ron Howard) 63
[ Last week, Tom Hanks made me laugh hard all through "The Ladykillers". 10 years ago, he starred in one of my Top 5 all-time favorites, "Forrest Gump". And 20 years ago, he made his first star turn in this romantic fantasy in which a melancholy fruit merchant finds love with a sexy mermaid played by Daryl Hannah. The movie, which was also the first big hit for director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer, is kinda predictable, sappy and full of broad comedy (Eugene Levy and the late John Candy play supporting parts), but I love all the ‘80s camp and Hannah and Hanks make a lovely couple. "What are you looking at? You never seen a guy who slept with a fish before???" ]

(7 Apr) The Party (1968, Blake Edwards) 32
[ It occurred to me that I'd never seen any of the movies of Blake Edwards, recipient of a lifetime achievement award at the last Oscars. This, supposedly one of his funniest comedies, was my first taste but, considering all this labored slapstick never actually made me laugh, I'm afraid I won't be spending too much time delving into his filmography. Peter Sellers brings a certain wit and sophistication even though he's acting under brown-face makeup as a clumsy Indian actor who causes all kinds of mayhem through a Hollywood party, to the dismay of the glamorous guests and the hilarity of those watching the movie... Except me. I'm not a Blake Edwards person, I guess. ]

(7 Apr) The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948, John Huston) 89
[ Part of Les Chefs-d'oeuvre ]

(8 Apr) Hope Springs (2003, Mark Herman) 14
[ An English artist (Colin Firth) who got dumped by his fiancée (Minnie Driver) flies to America and the town of Hope, hoping to find some. He actually does when he meets sunny young babe Heather Graham, in a (rotten) screenwriter's dream of opposites, attracting: he's a tight-ass dullard, she's a "free spirit" who gets drunk in the morning and takes off all her clothes when she's happy (don't get your Hopes up, boys, the movie's a wimpy PG-13). This makes for a superficial relationship, but this is a superficial movie. Predictable, too. And uninspired, sitcomish, trite... Hopelessly boring. ]

(8 Apr) Kill Bill vol. 1 (2003, Quentin Tarantino) [ review ] 93

(9 Apr) Meet me in St. Louis (1944, Vincente Minnelli) 65
[ This nostalgic ode to the "good old days" is as corny as it gets, but it's full of (Techni)color, music and heart. And when Judy Garland croons Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, don't be surprised if you shed a few tears. ]

(9 Apr) The Girl Next Door (2004, Luke Greenfield) [ review ] 80

(10 Apr) Star Wars (1977, George Lucas) [ review ] 90

(11 Apr) The Work of Director Chris Cunningham DVD (2004, Chris Cunningham) 47
[ Cunningham's got a thing for machinery, image distortion, fast cuts and cold color tones, which fits pretty nicely with the electronic music of Autechre, Aphex Twin and others, though this gets tiresome after a while. The more contemplative but equally cold feel of his videos for Madonna and Portishead also tends to overstay its welcome. Only in Björk's All if Full of Love is Cunningham's visual polish matched by warmth of feeling... courtesy of a couple of lesbian robots! ]

(12 Apr) The Punisher (2004, Jonathan Hensleigh) [ review ] 12

(13 Apr) Vol. 2 (2004, Quentin Tarantino) [ review ] 95

(15 Apr) The Corporation (2003, Mark Achbar) [ review ] 83

(15 Apr) Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby cart at River Styx (1972, Misumi Kenji) 61
[ Late into "Vol. 2", Bill asks his little girl what she wants to watch before sleepy time. "Shogun Assassin!" Well, "Shogun Assassin" is in fact Roger Corman's English-dubbed re-editing of the first two "Lone Cub and Wolf" movies ("Sword of Vengeance" and this one) into one feature. Once you start watching this tale of a samurai assassin and his kid, the correlation with Bill and tyke is obvious. Ditto regarding the geysers of blood, slashed off limbs and badass ninja chicks – Tarantino didn't pull all his "Kill Bill" action out of his ass! The storytelling in "Baby cart at River Styx" is disconnected and practically incoherent, but the stylish and colourful cinematography and the over the top swordplay make up for it. ]

(16 Apr) Vol. 2 (2004, Quentin Tarantino) [ review ] 95

(17 Apr) The Power of Myth (1988, Bill Moyers) 79
[ On last week's "Gilmore Girls", Rory went to Spring Break in Florida and, instead of getting drunk and making out with other girls (though she did that eventually!), she eats pizza and watches "The Power of Myth" in her motel room! I figured I oughta check it out myself after hearing so much about it. This is a series of conversations with Joseph Campbell about how mythologies and heroic tales are universal and essential to the human experience, about how these basic stories affect the way a culture develops and so on. Fascinating, really... but I wish Rory'd been sitting next to me watching it. :) ]

(19 Apr) A Bullet for the General (1967, Damiano Damiani) 66
[ A gringo joins an outfit of Mexican banditos after helping them rob the train on which he was riding. What follows is pretty much just a series of shoot-outs, but those are well put together and there are also juicy performances by Gian Maria Volonté and Klaus Kinski, surprisingly radical political undertones and a superb score by Luis Bacalov (sampled to great effect by QT in "Vol. 2".) ]

(19 Apr) Les Cowboys Fringants: Centre Bell 30 décembre 2003 (2004, Maxime Giroux) 75
[ Man, I love these guys (and I'm in love with Marie-Annick). Here they blow the roof off the Centre Bell in front of 20 000 fans and it is good, really good. Look for a great guest appearance from Jorane, and don't forget to listen to the commentary track by the band, full of hilarious banter, inside jokes and mockery. ]

(20 Apr) Duck Soup (1933, Leo McCarey) 81
(20 Apr) High Noon (1952, Fred Zinnemann) 70
[ Part of the AFI 100 list (#85 & 33) ]

(21 Apr) Dead or Alive (1999, Takashi Miike) 54
[ Takashi Miike's cinema is so extreme that calling him the "Japanese Tarantino" is as reductive as saying that manga is Japan's answer to American comic books. Sure, there are echoes in style and tone, but there is a blend of silliness and perversion in Japanese pop culture that no one here could ever get away with. "Dead or Alive" is an orgy of blood, dope and deviant sex that's messy and uneven but never dull. Wish it was easier to keep track (and care about) all the Yakuza, Chinese gangsters, cops and prostitutes clashing through the movie, but it's worth seeing if only for the insane final showdown with the cars, guns and explosions. ]

(21 Apr) The Work of Director Michel Gondry DVD (2004, Michel Gondry) 75
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(23 Apr) Man on Fire (2004, Tony Scott) [ review ] 52

(24 Apr) An evening with Kevin Smith (2002) 80
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(26 Apr) Le mystère de la chambre jaune (2002, Bruno Podalydes) 32
[ The daughter of an eccentric scientist is attacked while sleeping in a locked yellow room from which the would-be assassin escaped as mysteriously as he entered. The following days have an eager young reporter and a reputed inspector battling wits to elucidate this puzzling affair. Set in a castle in the French countryside, this chatty and mannered murder mystery has the tone and look of a "Tintin" comic book. Unfortunately, what intrigue it possesses is spread too thin and the film's deadpan sense of humor can't make up for its lack of urgency. ]

(26 Apr) Monica la Mitraille (2004, Pierre Houle) [ review ] 69

(27 Apr) The Grapes of Wrath (1940, John Ford) 84
(27 Apr) Sunset Blvd. (1950, Billy Wilder) 95
[ Part of the AFI list (#21 & 12) ]

(28 Apr) Fudoh : The New Generation (1996, Takashi Miike) 63
[ Ten years after witnessing his brother's murder at the sword of their own father, Riki Fudoh sets out to get bloody satisfaction from his dad and the other Yakuza bosses with the help of his schoolmates. You could say that the film is about the need for youth to kill their elders in order to take their place... But really, it's about the perverse thrill of watching schoolboys and especially schoolgirls get crazy. Like, I don't know, a schoolgirl moonlighting as a stripper whose novelty act consists of popping balloons by shooting darts at them from a blowpipe stuck in her pussy. Only in a Miike movie! ]

(28 Apr) Pink Flamingos (1972, John Waters) ???
[ How do you rate a movie that looks and sounds dirt-cheap, with the clumsiest direction and ghastliest acting? This barely qualifies as a movie at all, it's pretty much just a bunch of grotesque characters with the foulest mouths who do a lot of disgusting and retarded shit in front of a camera, led by 350 pound drag queen Divine. This is like the worst thing you've ever seen, yet you can't look away! ]

(30 Apr) Mean Girls (2004, Mark S. Waters) [ review ] 71

March / May