Montreal Film Journal

2010 LOG (6)

(1 Jun) The Karate Kid (2010, Harald Zwart) [ review ] 76

(2 Jun) Get Him to the Greek (2010, Nicholas Stoller) 65
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(5 Jun) The Hangover (2009, Todd Phillips) 69
[ The first great thing this does is actually skip the crazy night of partying, then have the characters try to piece things back together. Okay, that's almost exactly like that one scene in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", or "Dude, Where's My Car", or the episode from "The Simpsons" in which Homer and Ned Flanders get wasted in Vegas, but still! I also liked how, while this is in the same ballpark as Phillips' previous "Old School" and "Road Trip" (the less said about "Starksy & Hutch" and "School for Scoundrels" the better), it also harkens back to some of those classic 1980s comedies, like a "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" with older protagonists or something. I'm not saying that this is a new comedy classic or anything, but a funny, rowdy good time at the movies, with a winning trio of leads in Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis. ]

Note: the above is a repost of a blurb written in August 2009 after I first saw the film. ]

(12 Jun) Pour toujours, les Canadiens (2009, Sylvain Archambault) 14
[ Produced and released at the occasion of the Montreal Canadiens's 100 year anniversary, this film's only worthy aspect is the archival footage depicting some of the hockey team's glorious history, which is introduced as excerpts of a documentary-within-the-movie being made by one of the characters. Now, of course, the question is why they didn't make a straight documentary instead of drowning said archival footage in an utterly dull and forgettable multi-character tale involving, amongst other things, a sub-"Lance et Compte" subplot and the shamelessly melodramatic story of a CH-loving kid in the hospital. Weak writing is made even worse by TV director Sylvain Archambault's inability to find a cinematic groove. Visuals alternate between point-and-shoot humdrum and ridiculously misguided stylistic whims (wait until you see the floating trading cards scene!), and the acting is generally rotten, which comes as a surprise considering the presence of such notable cast members as Claude Legault, Christian Bégin, Céline Bonnier, Denis Bernard, Réal Bossé and Jean Lapointe. All the same, they all embarrass themselves in this tone-deaf picture, which otherwise feature a particularly sucky performance by newcomer Dhanaé Audet-Beaulieu. The less said about the hockey player cameos the better, and it all culminates in a spectacularly botched, groan-inducing happy ending. ]

(13 Jun) Ocean's Thirteen (2007, Steven Soderbergh) [ review ] 52

(14 Jun) Year of the Carnivore (2010, Sook-Yin Lee) 46
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(14 Jun) Les amours imaginaires (2010, Xavier Dolan) [ review ] 41

(17 Jun) Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2010, John Hyams) 73
[ Following the gripping opening abduction/chase/shoot-out sequence, the premise is quickly set up: Commander Topov (Zahary Baharov), a terrorist leader who's pursuing his dead father's fight for the liberation of the (fictional) country of Pasalan, has not only kidnapped the Russian prime minister's son and daughter, but also occupied the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the abandoned city surrounding it. He now threatens to blow everything and everyone up unless his demands are met in the next 72 hours. Amongst Topov's army: a next-generation Universial Soldier (Andrei "The Pit Bull" Arlovski), i.e. a perfect killing machine that seemingly can't be stopped, which leads to the CIA deciding to send back into action Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme), a decommissioned first-gen UniSol... The plot is actually more complicated plot, involving some contrived twists that allow for, notably, the return of another old-school UniSol, one Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren). But director John Hyams (son of filmmaker Peter Hyams, who's the DP here) keeps everything moving pretty slickly, with intense and violent beats that keep us on our toes until the inevitable final showdown between the superhuman badasses played by Van Damme, Lundgren and Arlovski. A throwback to 1980s/early '90s sci-fi action flicks, this latest "Universal Soldier" sequel also has a touch of the more modern, grittier feel of something like "Children of Men". This is seriously one of the coolest movies I've seen all year. It's instantly made me into a John Hyams fan and followed up on "JCVD" in making Jean-Claude Van Damme one of the most vital Hollywood action heroes again, while also reminding us of what a powerful screen presence Dolph Lundgren is. ]

(20 Jun) The Bad Lieutenant - Port of Call: New Orleans (2009, Werner Herzog) 70
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(23 Jun) Grown Ups (2010, Dennis Dugan) 13
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(26 Jun) Michael Jackson's This Is It (2009, Kenny Ortega)
[ Not quite a documentary, not quite a concert film, this is a look behind the scenes of the 50 shows run MJ was supposed to do in London. So we see him going through songs, working on choreographies, rehearsing numbers, interacting with various collaborators... The whole thing is rather well cut together and offers interesting glimpses of how spectacular this concert would have been, and MJ remained an extraordinary performer and fascinating presence up until the very end. R.I.P. ]

(27 Jun) Toy Story 3 (2010, Lee Unkrich) 86
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(27 Jun) Winter's Bone (2010, Debra Granik) 81
[ In a poor community, deep into the Missouri backwoods, 17 year old Ree is searching for her crystal meth cook of a father, who has a court date coming up which, if he doesn't show up, will cause the family to lose their home, which the ex-con put up for bail. Set around some cold, harsh, ominous landscapes and populated with seedy, rough, mean characters who almost all carry guns, "Winter's Bone" is sort of a contemporary Western. It's also a very Sundance film, in that it's light on plot yet heavy in atmosphere, slow in pace yet intense all the same. It made me think of things like "Shotgun Stories" and "Undertow", or Terence Malick's 1970s movies, for the way it's both very realistic and grounded, but also somewhat lyrical. Much has already been said and written about the remarkable indeed lead performance by Jennifer Lawrence, who makes Ree into a strong, proud, tough young woman who goes through hell and a half, but still remains vulnerable and sensitive deep down. The "white trash" supporting cast (John Hawkes' Teardrop especially) is great as well, as is the bluegrass music. Not an easy film to watch, but a rewarding one. ]

(28 Jun) The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector (2010, Vikram Jayanti)
[ Intercutting the long interview the famed music producer gave the filmmaker before his murder trial (and footage of said trial) with clips of various performers performing his songs back in the day, this documentary quite perfectly conveys both the genius and the madness that Phil Spector possesses. I mean, the man is obviously troubled, sad, megalomaniacal (he actually compares himself to Galileo and Da Vinci!) and whatnot, but there's no denying the everlasting power of records like "Be My Baby", "He's a Rebel", "Da Doo Ron Ron", "Then He Kissed Me", "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" and "River Deep - Mountain High", not to mention a bunch of John Lennon and George Harrison albums, plus The Beatles' "Let It Be". He took pop music to 11, basically, and it's a true American tragedy how sordidly his life story turned out down the line... ]

May / July