Guest-Blogger Jim Knipp has a love-hate relationship with Zombies. After all, what is there to love or hate, heck, what is there to fear? Like Mummies, even Frankenstein can outrun them. Check out his thought process on zombies for our 31 Days of Horror, after the jump.
Prolific Hong Kong director Johnnie To is back, with his first actioner shot on the Chinese mainland. Gritty and intense, Drug War is a true police procedural, relentlessly following the intricacies of an elaborate police sting to break up the highest levels of drug production in the country. The film moves at a breathless pace, but does it give fans of classic bullet ballet the old ultraviolence they so eagerly crave? Find out after the jump!
The tone is set right away, as the film jumps frenetically between stone-faced Captain Zhang (Sun Honglei)’s unfolding operation at a provincial toll booth and the drug boss Timmy Choi (Louis Koo), driving injured through the city streets after an explosion at one of his labs. Their paths are bound to cross, though not before a few convolutions play out in the early minutes. Once he’s been caught, Choi makes a desperate deal with Captain Zhang, rather than face an automatic death penalty under Chinese law. Choi will introduce Captain Zhang to a high level distributor and a supplier, who are to meet for the first time that night. They decide to hold two meetings, with the Captain impersonating the distributor for one, and the supplier for the other. From there the complications spin out, as they work their way up the food-chain and across the grimy industrial landscape of Jinshan. Honglei really gets to work his acting chops in the impersonation scenes, especially once he takes on the forced joviality of the bloodless distributor nicknamed Haha. Koo, a regular from To’s Hong Kong movies and expertly dubbed in Mandarin here, is equally excellent as the gangster Choi, a man who will sell out anyone to survive.
Drug War‘s realism is remarkable, capturing the details of policework with deft economy. After a busload of drug mules have been arrested, To cuts right to the sordid details of their processing in hospital, cops and nurses waiting around for the evidence to emerge. (Toronto’s infamous Mayor Rob Ford may want to rethink his alleged habit after seeing how drugs “pass” through our borders…) The cinematography from To’s regular DOP Cheng Siu-keung is moody and effective, casting a noir-ish eye on contemporary China. A set-piece at the Jinshan harbour is a true standout, as countless red-flagged boats are ordered by the undercover Captain Zhang to set sail en masse, demonstrating his power to doubtful partners.
There is violence, rest assured, but the film simmers a good while before it boils, reaching a suitably explosive crescendo. Apparently To had to tone the violence down, to comply with local censorship rules. What sets it apart from its HK and Hollywood action brethren is To’s clinical detachment this time around. We don’t get to know the main characters outside of their immediate work, and there’s no relationship between Captain Zhang and the fetchingly stern detective Yang Xiaobei (Crystal Huang) to make us, you know, care. Under To’s assured direction, the absence of what so many mainstream movies take for depth is hardly an obstacle. The film’s momentum is inescapable, and captures the modern drug war perfectly: anarchic, treacherous, and full of unexpected consequences.
Drug War debuts on Sunday, July 14th at 9pm, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto as part of the Century of Chinese Cinema program. Director Johnnie To will be in attendance to introduce the film, and it will appear several times after that. For the full schedule and tickets, click here.
Who doesn’t like a good “possession” story?
Yep, those sorts of ghost/demon/entity tales wherein a strange force takes over the body of a living host are where it’s at. I mean, The Exorcist, written by William Peter Blatty and directed by William Friedkin, is one of my favourite films. “Wolf in the Fold”, written by acclaimed horror author, Robert Bloch, is one of my favourite episodes of the original 1960’s Star Trek series. At their essence, those types of stories remind us that we’re not always in control of our actions; that human beings can still revert to their base, most wild forms.
But what happens when the ghost/demon/entity takes over the human host and turns him into a superhero…that kills villains?
That’s the intriguing question that today’s release of Dream Thief asks.
I did not have high hopes for this Michael Bay film. I don’t have high hopes for any Michael Bay film. He’s a fine tent pole, summer blockbuster director but the previews of this movie suggested this was something with a little more finesse – not a lot but a little. Boy, were my socks blow off!
For over two months, I’ve been buried alive.
As it turns out, being buried alive is actually pretty exciting. All-consuming for sure. Back in February, when director Paul Thompson pitched me the idea for a porn-star-mom stalked by a psychotic fan, and said, “let’s make a trailer for it and try to win a million bucks”, I thought, why not? Let’s go for it! I’ve done dumber things for much less motivation.
And so we plunged into the CineCoup Film Accelerator, competing with 91 teams across Canada to earn a million dollars in funding for our feature film ideas. Making the trailer itself was an exhausting rolling disaster, with locations pulling out upon learning the subject matter, a constantly changing crew, and only Paul and producer Rick Jang’s drive to finish holding our fragile enterprise together. With only two days to go before the competition entry deadline, they finished shooting our trailer for a thriller that doesn’t exist. Paul then madly edited it together, the first of what would turn out to be many marathon sessions with Final Cut Pro and a case of Coca-Cola.
Since then we’ve made countless videos, one a week, for two months. We’ve pitched our team. We’ve talked about the importance of soundtrack, post-sound and colour correction, relatively cheap tricks that give your film so much character. We’ve made posters for people to vote on (and a ridiculous ad-man noir vid as a very silly companion piece). We’ve made a silent(ish) sequence, with no dialogue, delving into our characters in a short but moving vignette. And it doesn’t stop there.
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I always love it when a film sneaks up on you. I think I’ve said that before and it remains the case with a small movie called Deadfall. You likely havent heard of it, as it had a minimal release before making it’s way onto Blu-Ray/DVD a few weeks back. However, with a solid cast and an intriguing story that kept the Queen and I guessing all the way through it, Deadfall is a film that definitely deserves a wider audience.
Check out the trailer and then find out why after the jump!
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Two more weeks down, and twenty-five more teams have exited the CineCoup contest. I’ve been blogging about being part of Team Starkers in the CineCoup Film Accelerator, a grueling socially-driven contest to award one three-person team $1 million to make their feature film. We started at ninety-one teams from all over Canada. Now there’s fifty-seven. And this weekend they’re voting on the Top 40, so another seventeen teams will be shown the door.
The competition’s been heating up, and the best teams are definitely raising their game to earn a shot at that Cineplex money. There were two challenges to deliver over the past few weeks. The first was to create two possible movie posters for your film. I was surprised to see how professional and well designed the results were, once again showcasing the talent so many of these teams possess. There’s a great gallery of all the posters you can check out on Pinterest. (You can still vote for your faves, if you click on the images, taking you through to each poster’s CineCoup page.)
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Two weeks ago I wrote about taking the plunge on the CineCoup Film Accelerator, making a trailer for Starkers, a feature-to-be in the hunt for $1 million in Cineplex funding. We’re definitely swimming in the deep end; no water-wings for the teams competing from all over Canada. When the contest opened there were ninety-one teams. Now there’s eighty-two. Fourteen days, and attrition has set in.
We’ve done two Mission Videos already in that time. Every Sunday, the CineCoup teams scramble to get a video in by midnight, which appears for public viewing starting the following Monday at 9pm. The first Mission Video was a “power trio” vid, giving each team a chance to introduce their members. Teams leapt at the chance to unleash their pent-up creativity. Check out the the three top videos so far after the jump!
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