Fugitive pieces (2007)

Here’s a fantastic movie that, even if it gets picked up for wide distribution, will be doomed. Even if the film gets an ideal release time (it’s about Holocaust, gotta be a Christmas release, for all the award considerations), and the best marketing team to promote it, I’m afraid it will bomb. Well, how would you promote a Holocaust movie that’s really not about Holocaust? How do you bring people into theaters if the book is based on a non-linear, rather lyrical novel of a Canadian writer? Don’t you know if it doesn’t rhyme with ‘Larry Shmoetter’ it won’t sell, paper or film. How do you explain to people that wars have affected more lives than were listed as mere casualties, and how do you illuminate that those who don’t know their history will repeat it, hence other wars, other bloodshed. Regardless of whether the affected people speak Yiddish or Tutsi or Russian or Chinese. The stories of survival are universal, and Fugitive Pieces demonstrates it with style, pride and a lot of local history.
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Babel (2006)

Last year’s everyone’s favourite movie – a winner of many awards, nominated for dozens more, is Babel really that good? We’ve had our share of undeserved award-hype in the past – Brokeback Mountain, Shakespeare in Love, so does Babel fill the same over-hyped shoes, or is it actually worth watching? Well, if you are not intimidated by subtitles, huge cast and intertwining plot lines – you will enjoy this film. The imagery and morals might be a little too heavy, but then again, a project that spans multiple cultures and languages will not translate as poetically as intended. Babel is heavy, but so are its themes. Last year’s Crash is very similar – it touched on subjects that are very difficult to resolve – only illuminate. And it’s during that illumination that you start seeing people in the audience disagree. But, at least they’re talking about something of substance. As opposed to say “The Devil Wears Prada” – an entertaining and moving film about nothing.
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The Departed (2006)

Sometimes, when you put a whole bunch of male actors on the screen, you get drama magic. From 12 Angry Men, to Glengarry Glen Ross, to The Thing, to The Great Escape, the right combination of despair and testosterone will give you fantastic movie moments, filled with memorable quotes, crackling silences, and often-imitated facial expressions. But, you have to have your formula right. Too often, an all-male cast is lost in a heavy plot, or distracted by unnecessary effects. The Departed is a focused, plot-driven cop drama – and although Martin Scorcese’s fans will argue differently, it’s a movie well worth your time and money. Even for a remake of Hong-Kong’s Infernal Affairs, The Departed is fresh, and energetic, keeping you involved until the very last scene. So why all the criticism?
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Casino Royale (2006)

You know you’re getting old and cranky when an old movie franchise is revived to the delight of both fans and critics, but you sit back in the theater and ask yourself “so this is Bond?” I really liked Brosnan in this role (even though deep inside I bow down to Connery), and I have a hard time understanding how a 40-year-old novel can be adapted to post 9/11 world of international crime and spying. But I have to accept that actors can be replaced and novels – rewritten. Casino Royale is a solid action flick, but it’s missing so many trademark Bond elements that I don’t know if it’s an issue of “starting over” or “trimming down”.
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100 top TV catchphrases

Yes, the end of the year must be here – all kinds of lists are popping up. Here’s one list we just had to share with you. The TV Land cable network has compiled a list of the 100 greatest catchphrases in TV, from the serious — Walter Cronkite’s nightly sign-off “And that’s the way it is” — to the silly: “We are two wild and crazy guys!” The network will air a countdown special, “The 100 Greatest TV Quotes & Catch Phrases,” over five days, starting December 11. You should tune in – and memorize all these gems. Meanwhile, here’s an alphabetical listing.
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Robert Altman RIP

Robert Altman is no more. The famous director of Nashville, Gosford Park, MASH, Dr. T and the Women (and so many more movies) has died. He never got his Oscar – sure there was that lifetime achievement handout earlier this year, but for all the outstanding work he’s done, none has earned him that ultimate honor. Of course, Altman was the kind of guy who cared little for awards and ceremonies. He frequently said that hie biggest achievement was being able to work on movies (and with people) he picked. No assigned contractual obligations, no back-room deals. He saw a story, he asked for it, and he worked on it. In today’s climate, that’s not an easy task. For a guy who’s been in business since the 50s – that’s true honor.
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Miami Vice (2006)

So what the hell went wrong with Miami Vice? Michael Mann’s latest film made about half of its cost at the box office. It was a solid, gritty cop thriller, with a plot you could follow, and with characters you could care for. It starred Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell, and was released in the summer. A guaranteed blockbuster. What happened? Is this a new trend – summer blockbusters must be over-the-top loud and offensively dumb? The same thing happened a year ago with The Island – it was smarter than the usual Michael Bay picture and starred unusually compelling characters (as opposed to meatheads and dumb blondes). The audiences rejected it, and the subsequent DVD release was OK. Will Miami Vice follow the same pattern – too smart to make any money? Too stylish to appeal to wide audiences? Or was the film just too damn expensive? Read on to find out what we think (and what you should be thinking as well).
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Hollywoodland (2006)

I saw Hollywoodland as a sneak preview to the Toronto Film Festival all the way back in August. At the time the director of TIFF, Piers Handling, told the audience to look out for this movie as it has Oscar buzz all over it. He was right. The movie left me slightly dazed as I was walking out of the theater. It left so many questions unanswered. Just like the death of George Reeves. No one really knows what happened, and instead of speculating and creating an alternate universe the movie stays true to its subject matter. Because really we don’t know and sadly will never find out how the man that played Superman died on June 16, 1959.
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Death of a President (2006)

This movie was one of my top choices at Toronto Film Fest. Unfortunately, the media blew the controversy out of proportion as soon as the film was announced, and I could not get a ticket to see it back in September. The good news, I was able to see it before it rolls out in movie theaters this coming Friday. The bad news is that the media is still desperately trying to bury/boycott/kill this movie, all without a valid reason. The movie theaters might be empty – a real shame. Death of a President is an odd film, but it has a point to make, makes it splendidly, and despite the volatile subject matter, deals with it in a mature way. Anyone, and I mean ANYONE who dismisses it as a liberal propaganda, or an invitation for a real assassination of the president has not seen the movie and clearly doesn’t know what s/he is talking about. It’s as if a review was based solely on the title. Why I never…
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The Fountain (2006)

Somehow Darren Aronofsky has become the next big hit in Hollywood. Along with JJ Abrams (his status I just have to question, after MI3) and Christopher Nolan (ok, this guy knows what he’s doing) Darren is hailed as this decade’s Tarantino. Now I understand that a formulaic, stagnant world of Hollywood needs a regular shake, a revolution. So when a new kid on the block directs something unusual, he’s naturally going to be labeled as the next big thing. But I just didn’t get why Darren is such an outstanding director. I could see his unique way of writing (his earlier hits, Pi and Requiem for a Dream were also written by him), but as a filmmaker, a genius behind the camera – I didn’t get it. Until The Fountain, of course. While Pi was a bit unusual throughout, Requiem for a Dream had a weird plot and soundtrack, but not direction. It was good, but not excellent. Compelling but not exceptional. With The Fountain, I think Darren has reached a new level of storytelling – a unique plot, amazing score and focused, concise visual mastery of the story. This is a simple, straightforward movie told in a fantastic and memorable way.
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