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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ripped Torn!

Wow, so Rip Torn, master of many great television and movie roles, has been busted for breaking into a bank in Connecticut while the place was closed. State Police report the Texas madman smashed his way in through a rear window and was allegedly arrested while in possession of a loaded revolver. Not surprisingly, he was said to be intoxicated at the time. The 78-year-old star has a history of booze related incidents. Torn seems to be bringing to life fave HYS... character Maury Dann from the 1973 classic movie 'Payday.' We'll be following this story closely.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Have You Seen... a proud Rue Morgue magazine haunt!

If you're a horror movie fan, you probably already know about Rue Morgue magazine. And if you're like us, you visually ravage each month's issue with the cold stare of your terror-eyes. If, for some reason, you don't have a subscription to this fine publication, you can pick a copy up every 30 days or so at HYS... Not only is Rue Morgue Canadian (produced in Toronto in fact), it is the best, most thorough horror monthly out there. The writers heap praise where its due but are also not afraid to tear something apart. Rather than every release being "The Greatest Horror Movie of the Year!" as you'll read in some places, Rue Morgue shoots straight from the bloody hip. I don't always agree but I appreciate the honesty! Check out the latest issue featuring a cover story on the new futuristic vampire film 'Daybreakers' from The Brothers Spierig, the folks responsible for the 2003 Australian zombie flick 'Undead.' Stay tuned for future issues of Rue Morgue with content rundowns and reviews!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Paul's Top of the 10 from 2009

DVDs are fun to watch and when they contain movies, wowie! There are still lots of good things back in around about the way of last year you shouldn't go and miss. I'm Paul and here are mine!

Anvil played my high school way back and I’ve always had a soft spot for this hard ‘n’ heavy metal band who refused to quit after years of wallowing in the bar circuit. Their mission was to “make it big” despite everyone telling them they should just put it to rest. Filmed by a fan that Anvil befriended when he was just a teen, this finely crafted doc is an inspirational showcase of the never-say-die attitude. They might only be recognized now because of this movie, but at least their dream of music being their day job is now a reality. You’ll laugh – you’ll cry – you’ll bang thy head!

Part covert spy thriller and part eco-expose, The Cove made the most impact on me of any single documentary in 2009. A small fishing town in rural Japan hides a very big secret that the locals go to great lengths to keep that way. Former dolphin trainer turned dolphin liberator Ric O’Barry joins a team of filmmakers who use a variety of ingenious undercover methods to document the town’s outrageous activities. I’m glad this movie was made, but getting through it sure ain’t easy. Viewing, however, is important and necessary. The DVD extra Mercury Rising is a scary cherry on top of this shocking doc.

Continuing with their ever impressive output of releases, Criterion unveiled the first official release of Luis Bunuel’s surrealist cinematic masterstroke. A group of high society partygoers attend a posh to-do, but at the end of the gathering, they find they lack the ability to leave. I was completely unnerved and unsettled as Bunuel subtly turns the screws to construct an atmosphere of eerie unease.

Never before available, this crime drama from 1973 stars Robert Mitchum as Eddie, a desperate hoodlum fighting to stay out of jail by co-operating with the cops and passing over info. The life of a snitch is complicated and Eddie tries his best to get through this situation with his body parts intact. Directed by Peter Yates (Bullitt, The Dresser) and co-starring Peter Boyle in one of his great understated roles, The Friends of Eddie Coyle is solid 70s cinema. Criterion gets kudos for bringing this otherwise hard to find gem to our televisions.

I’m sneaking 2 movies into 1, but 2009 was the year I saw my first “mumblecore” movie. These are simply shot, dialogue driven indies where the script and acting are given top priority over the visuals. Mumbling all the way is Lynn Shelton, who both directed and shot this double bill. Both films are hilarious and authentic and I found myself feeling that the characters were people I knew. Every day stuff that, if assembled by someone without serious talent, would come off as boring and lame.

This one will probably show up in a few HYS… staff picks and rightfully so. The IRA prison hunger strike of 1981 is nailed to the screen by first time director Steve McQueen (not that one, of course) where it hangs stark and dripping in all of its visceral glory. The confines of the space provided will not allow me to praise Hunger strongly enough. You owe it to yourself to not merely watch, but to experience this most jarring film.

Two heavy metal movies make the top of the year? You betcha! Not content to get old and let the royalty cheques pour in, IRON MAIDEN set out on the most ambitious tours ever. India, Australia, Japan, North and South America… And who flew the plane to get them there? Lead singer Bruce Dickinson, who also just happens to be a commercial pilot. Great footage, backstage access and a second disc containing a live performance from each stop on the tour! Can I Play With Madness? Yes, fellow metalhead, you can.

I’ve never been one to bite my nails, but for the duration of Julia, I chomped my slabs of keratin into bloody submission! The always versatile Tilda Swinton stars as a seriously desperate woman who just can’t stop making really bad decisions. These choices take her on a frightening journey involving all sorts of highly outrageous activities that made a boring couch potato such as me need to sleep for a week after the credits rolled. Solid as a rock thriller!

We longed to have this mesmerizing movie by French auteur Alain Resnais in our collection from the beginning of Have You Seen… It took until 2009 for us to get our grubby little mitts on it due to availability issues. And what a sight and edition to behold! Yet again, Criterion comes through with a stunning transfer and a second disc of mind-busting extras. The plot? Can’t tell you for sure. The movie? A complete visual masterpiece. You just need to block off a chunk of time, climb onto your favourite sitting apparatus and let you jaw hang low. I plan on revisiting it again soon and sharing it with someone I love. Someone other than myself.

Two of my fave 80s scream flicks previously unavailable on DVD made their way to the format in 2009. Night of the Creeps (1986) is a prime example of what made horror films of the decade so enjoyable. Gross outs, laughs and super wicked one-liners. Phantasm 2 (1988) is my pick of the series. By no means a great film, but it’s totally fun and captures ‘the vibe’ so many recent horror movies lack. And since it includes a decent recap of the first film, you can enjoy it without having seen the original (which I also happen to really love). “The funeral is about to begin!”

Jesse P's Top 10 of '09



79-year old French film-maker Claude Chabrol stays sharp with this teasing and felicitous thriller. But ah, Mon Dieu! 61-year old Gerard Depardieu has been hitting the foie gras so hard lately, one could perhaps re-title this "Belly".


Mike Leigh really seems to have a handle on how people relate to each other, and how they relate to a film. Therein lies the stratagem of this film: The protagonist is just so preternaturally poppy and optimistic, that it makes the supporting characters seem vampiric in their need to drag her down to their "pragmatic" pessimism. In Fact, it made me feel like I was too analytical, too defensive and cynical, and not likely to change that anytime soon. Thus, the feel-good movie of the era is, through an oblique strategy, also enjoyed as the feel-bad movie of the era.


Shot with an artist's eye for subjective, and aesthetic story-telling. Although set during the Thatcher-era, its premise of a Democratic country's denial of human rights resonates with a topicality that's ear-shattering. Stylistically, it's the angry step-brother of last-year's "Diving-Bell and the Butterfly".

Criterion Re-releases the 1960's

The iron-clad Criterion Collection continues to astound me with their output. Homogenizing corporate monopoly over a lucrative niche market? Our lips are sealed when such delectable diversions as these are served up: Costa-Gavra's incendiary "Z."; the once almost mythical, narrationally experimental "Last Year at Marienbad"; Luis Bunuel's mordant study in bourgeois torpor, "The Exterminating Angel"; the box-set of Dusan Makavejev's enthralling early films, which give one a sense of what it would be like to be Yugoslavian in the sixties... AND the one which knocked my socks off the most - Shonien Imamura's "Pigs and Battleships", which is anthropologically bleak, but also very entertaining, and is something like an early Fellini film meets "Last Exit to Brooklyn."

"Zombie Dearest"

Locally made and pleasingly well put together, this odd and tender Living Dead tale is a jaunty take on a genre most saunter through.


Other notable DVDS that my estimable colleagues have already commented on are: "Anvil", "Coraline", and "Friends of Eddie Coyle",

"Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus"

Last, and most certainly least, this movie is notable for having probably the only screenplay to plagiarize a wikipedia page word for word, and present it as dialogue. Elsewhere, Mister Shark showcases his range by changing several hundred feet in size at different points during the film. The same 8 seconds of computer graphics is used in about ten minutes of film-time, and the rest of it is shot in places you wouldn't require a permit to film in.

Stay Tuned...

As the best of 2009 comes out to Have You Seen... Last year's festival films, this year's award contenders, trickle out on DVD over the next couple of months. Such as: Kathryn Bigelow's nearly universally acclaimed "The Hurt Locker"; Palme D'Or winner "The White Ribbon"; the exotic and enticing "Headless Woman", and "Lion's Den"; and Criterion re-releases of Max Ophuls' "Lola Montes", and Nicholas Ray's "Bigger than Life."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

HYS... Staff Best of 2009 (Elliott)

Our 'Best of 2009' on DVD lists are available in store, but for those who want a closer look, here ya go. We begin with Elliott's Picks.

The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins.
Pietra Brettkelly's fascinating documentary on art superstar Vanessa Beecroft's obsessive quest to adopt African twins transcends the obvious Brangelina trappings and instead creates a complex portrait of a gifted and misunderstood woman. Granted almost unlimited access to her subject, Brettkelly's film is both disturbing and a refreshing commentary on modern celebrity.

For Her
Another year, another well crafted French thriller. The vastly underrated Diane Kruger stars as a woman found guilty of a heinous crime she claims she did not commit. Imprisoned for three years, her only hope is the obsessive detective work of her loving husband. Great performances and nail-biting suspense help establish one of the most entertaining crime stories of the year.

Johnny Guitar
Finally available for your viewing pleasure at Have You Seen, Nicholas Ray's vibrant feminist western is both supremely entertaining and a clever allegory for the era's rampant McCarthyism. The indomitable Joan Crawford stars in one her more memorable roles with a truly crackling screenplay by Philip Yordan. Both Pedro Almodovar and Martin Scorsese have cited this film as a major influence.

True Blood
As expected, HBO's latest runaway hit is everything its cracked up to be. From Alan Ball (Six Feet Under) comes a rural Vampire yarn that is funny, creepy, sexy, basically everything you'd want in an hour long program. Anna Paquin leads a cast of excellent character actors through twists and turns that are unexpected and satisfying. Fear not, it couldn't have less to do with Twilight.

District 9
Neil Blomkamp's mainstream debut is easily the best sci-fi romp in the last few years. Essentially given free reign by producer Peter Jackson, Blomkamp creates a dystopian Johannesburg that is frightening and credible. More intimate than Star Trek, less bombastic than Avatar, the film is still rich with action and dry humour. Some have complained the faux documentary style mixed with a linear fictional narrative made the film seem disjointed, but this merely a quibble in the presence of a bold, original work.

A hypnotic, powerful examination of IRA prisoner Bobby Sand's hunger strike is superbly acted and realized. Michael Fassbender's intense performance is a revelation and the sparing use of dialogue and real time is extraordinarily effective. Intelligently presenting both sides of a conflict that remains a pivotal moment in British history.

That Hamilton Woman
Winston Churchill's favourite film is presented in a stunning new transfer from our friends at Criterion. This opulent, romantic epic stars Vivien Leigh in a role that brilliantly complements her earlier turn as Scarlett O'Hara. Mirroring her real life relationship with husband Laurence Olivier, the film works as star-crossed romance and elegant nautical spectacle.


Henry Selick's long awaited adaptation of Neil Gaiman's children's fable is completely enchanting. A wonderfully depicted fantasy world that is both colourful and menacing, Coraline is a cautionary fairy tale in the tradition of Brothers Grimm and a refreshing change of pace from the trend of CGI animals that dominate most contemporary children's fare.

The Reader
The film that finally landed Kate Winslet an Oscar, and rightly so. A fascinating study on loneliness and the consequences of choice, Stephen Daldry's follow-up to The Hours treads similar territory, but is vastly more interesting. Leading a uniformly excellent cast, Winslet shines as a mysterious woman with more then a few skeletons in the closet.

A truly different take on the zombie film. Bruce Mcdonald creates a claustrophobic tone that is tense and great fun. Stephen McHattie stars as the scenery chewing shock-jock who is forced to remain on the air despite the possibility of spreading the verbal infection. And yeah, its pretty cool to hear "the infection has spread to Peterborough!"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Big Fan, out now on the DVD

A solid drama with a darkly comedic hue starring Patton Oswalt and written/directed by Robert Siegel, some guy who edited The Onion and penned the screenplay for some movie called The Wrestler. Yeah, I've never heard of it either.

We Blog, Therefore We Is.

Greetings fellow lovers of movies you watch! This is an introduction of sorts. We hope you'll like what we type into this little box and later publish after missing numerous errors. Please stay tuned as this should, in theory, be updated on a regular basis. If it isn't, blame Howard. I'm sure it will be his fault.