Filed under: Author: alexiskaye, Live Music, Music | Tags: Feist, Hollywood Bowl, Pacifika, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
Fast Forward Revue Rating: FFFF (4 out of 5)
The evening started off with Pacifika, a band deeply rooted in soft jazz and Latin beats. Wasn’t all that pleased with them, actually; it was quite underwhelming. Their sound reminded me of an asthmatic, fairy tale-worshiping Tori Amos with a hint of Shakira in “Underneath Your Clothes.” In a nutshell, I prayed that Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings would not disappoint.
As soon as Jones sauntered onstage in a glittery, silver polka dot ensemble, I knew we were in for a good time. Pulling a complete 180, this fiery little lady backed by an equally spunky band immediately revived The Bowl with an upbeat attitude and a whole lot of soul. If James Brown and Tina Turner ever made sweet, weekly love, Sharon Jones–wrapped up in funk and R&B goodness–would pop out nine months later for sure. She connects with the 18,000 concert goers in between songs with the occasional “Ow! Watch me!” as she struts her stuff like Tina and simulates dancing on coals. The woman belts as if she were passing a freakin’ kidney stone! And note that their MySpace headline reads that they are “soul excitement.” Take their word for it.
At first, we see only darkness. Then a striking silhouette against an illuminated rectangle. Leslie Feist, clad in a heavily-tasseled white dress fit for a cowgirl, commands the stage with silence. She starts off her 70-minute set with two classics borrowed from the likes of Joan Baez and Nina Simone (“Wagoner’s Lad” and “When I Was a Young Girl,” respectively). Feist has a way of making things feel incredibly intimate when you consider that there are 17,999 other fans gathered underneath the blanket of sapphire. She sings a few notes with her ethereal voice, the nostalgia kicks in, and we cling to every word.
Oh, hard is the fortune of all womankind She’s always controlled She’s always confined Controlled by her parents until she’s a wife A slave to her husband the rest of her life
Feist daydreams of the ideal living situation in “Mushaboom,” leads us through groundbreaking epiphanies in “I Feel It All” with a rock ‘n’ roll twist, stirs up a harmonious frenzy complete with clapping during “Sea Lion,” and manages to make “1234″ sound as charming as it did the first time. That Sunday night was completely magical, shadow puppets and all.
Filed under: Author: gaoalexander, Cinema | Tags: A Tribe Called Quest, Ben Kingsley, Jonathan Levine, Josh Peck, Nas, Notorious B.I.G., Olivia Thirlby, Run DMC, The Wackness, Wu-Tang Clan
Fast Forward Rating: FFFFF (5 out of 5).
“Whose world is this? The world is yours, the world is yours.” The Wackness, directed by newcomer Jonathan Levine, opens to the tune of Nas’s track from Illmatic, one of the most celebrated hip hop records of all time. While this particular musical selection is sure to immediately win over some hip hop heads in the audience, it is the proceeding film that won me over. It takes place on the baking streets of Manhattan’s Upper East Side in the summer of 1994. Pun intended.
Luke Shapiro is our protagonist, a ganja-dealer fresh out of high school whose shrink brings him as much confusion as women do. Actually, his dream woman happens to be the shrink’s step-daughter, and while this provides a great scenario for mischief and mayhem to play out, the movie’s real strength is honest characterization. What I love about The Wackness so much is that it feels like a long therapy session in which I get to consider the meaning of love, friendship, sex, and most importantly: youth. The film’s flagship romance between Shapiro and “Steph”, played by Josh Peck (all grown up since Nickelodeon days) and Olivia Thirlby respectively, is painfully true to the spirit of young love, tainted with naivety, exhilaration, and anticipation.
Then there’s Luke’s relationship with Dr. Squires, played by Ben Kingsley, one of the greatest character actors of our time. The two have a complex relationship that is all at once doctor-patient, dealer-client, friend-friend, and mentor-disciple. At first, Luke thinks that his doctor is a washed-up weirdo with no friends, and Dr. Shapiro is indeed jealous that Luke has his entire life ahead of him. They learn valuable life lessons from each other and their friendship is the most meaningful relationship in a film full of marriages and flings, provoking the audience to ask the question of the true meaning of love, and the blinding nature of attraction in romantic relationships.
On top of the heavy core of the film, Levine really takes the film’s 1994 setting to heart, giving it an exquisite aged film look full of warm, earthy tones. Everything from the World Trade Center being in the skyline to the film’s tastefully incorporated graphics brings us back 14 years into the past, down to Luke’s Adidas sneaks that would make even run DMC proud. In fact, it is so genuine and spirited that I find myself lamenting the fact that I wasn’t a teenager in the ’90s. The soundtrack is loaded with tracks from Tribe, Biggie, KRS-One, and Wu-Tang, leaving me convinced that director Jonathan Levine knows his shit.
I won’t spoil any more, just go see the film next time you’re not busy selling marijuana or hitting a bong.
Filed under: Author: jaxba, comedy, toronto, Uncategorized | Tags: craig, festival, gold digger, just for laughs, kanye west, mahna mahna, muppets, robinson, second city, show, sketch, toronto
Fast Forward Revue Rating: FFF (3 out of 5)
Craig Robinson aka Daryll from The Office (US) – The ultimate serenading host! WOW. Take your panties off for this talented man on the keyboard… he is naturally hilarious, calls often for audience participation, and is musically inclined. Somehow he is able to figure out any song on his tiny keyboard by listening to it once. Incredibly charming guy.
The Sketchersons - Not my favourite. I felt that it was hard to connect with the number of people in the troupe in such a short time. Some of the acting seemed robotic and scenes were a bit mundane with lots of unoriginal lines and situations. Though, one sketch was quite hilarious with a repeated Sarah Maclachlin song.
The Imponderables – Four guys with amazing chemistry who are inventive and take risks… nothing is inappropriate between them. For real. Check out their YouTube!
The Williamson Playboys – Wonderful! What a delightful musical duo… Doug Morency and Paul Bates. They are like Flight of the Conchords as senior citizens with a ukulele and a tuba. Their songs are a riot and are original to the bone. Their 100% commitment led me to think they WERE over 100 years old (which is what they claim to be).
Keilly & Roeters – Takes a bit of time to adjust to their refreshingly crude humour but it ends up being a great laugh. Their continuous bickering and bizarre banters are so natural… I wondered while I was watching if they were improvising their elaborate threats. They’re on YouTube!
Memorable tune from the Keilly & Roeters act:
Kanye Mahna by Luke Enlow – SUPER catchy. A mashup of the Muppets’ infamous doo doooooo doo doo doo mahna mahna and Kanye West’s Gold Digger.
I apologize for the lack of linguistic flow in this review as it is written entirely with dashes, ellipses and colons – with the exception of this se…. god damnit. More Just For Laughs reviews coming!
Filed under: Author: E. Sempé, Cinema | Tags: 19th century, asia argento, catherine breillat, film review, fu-ad ait aattou, jules barbey d'aurevilly, paris, period piece, roxane mesquida, the last mistress, une vieille maîtresse
Fast Forward Rating: FFF¾ (3¾ out of 5)
The Last Mistress – French director Catherine Breillat’s latest cinematic offering based on the 1851 novel by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly – is a film that explores the precarious border between passion and hate. And thanks to a remarkably strong performance from the title role of Asia Argento, it succeeds in demonstrating that these two seemingly contradictory sentiments can occasionally be synonymous. The Last Mistress, set in 1835, revolves around Ryno de Marigny (Fu-ad Ait Aattou), a notorious Parisian libertine who is engaged to be married to the reputable and infinitely innocent young Hermangarde (Roxane Mesquida), granddaughter to the wealthy Marquise de Flers (Claude Sarraute). The pending marriage is however shadowed by the infamous relationship between Marigny and his mistress of ten years, Vellini (Argento), a brutishly seductive woman who declares herself the enemy of all things feminine – except, of course, when these things are demonstrated in the features of young men.
The film takes us through the ten-year affair between Marigny and Vellini, as well as their relationship once the former has ventured into supposedly-respectable married life. While its plot is somewhat predictable, the film is carried by Argento’s throaty sensuality and Aattou’s perplexingly effeminate beauty. And seeing as the bulk of the film focuses on these two elements – displayed to the best effect in the unabashedly many bedroom scenes – Breillat demonstrates that she knows what she’s doing, and knows what works to her advantage. While the complex relationship between Marigny and Vellini is truly compelling to witness, the structure and plot that fortify the story-line is easily lost due to the less enthralling performances from periphal characters, who portray the French aristocracy as uni-dimensional gossip-lovers, but not much more.
In spite of this, the central dilemma of the Marigny-Vellini affair is enough to satisfactorily hold up the rest of the film – which is further aided by the sheer beauty of its visuals. Even the somewhat drawn-out silences are made bearable by the engrossing aesthetic stimulation on screen.
Overall, while The Last Mistress may not be the chef-d’œuvre you were hoping for from Catherine Breillat, it is a satisfying film, and certainly worth seeing. Three and three quarters out of five.
Fast Forward Rating: FFFFf (4.5 out of 5)
SPOILER ALERT (Kind-of).
Alright, well I guess it is time for someone to review the box-office behemoth that is Batman’s The Dark Knight. I saw it a few days ago, so I guess I will do the honours.
I don’t have too much to say about the film, so I’ll try to keep it short.
The essentials: a) It’s good. It’s very good. Go see it, even if just to say you were part of the highest grossing film in history (to tell your children and grandchildren, etc).
b) It’s dark. It’s very dark. This film is by far the darkest of all Batman films to date, featuring a completely dystopic Gotham, where evil trumps good at every turn. The city was bad before, of course, but now it’s worse, and anarchic to the point where even a whole army of Good Guys (Batman and his friends on City Council and the police force) can’t face up to the evil of just one super-villain, The Joker. It’s horribly depressing. Which makes you crave Batman even more, praying that he will rise from the flames of the burning city and make everything right like it’s supposed to be, and save the world. Which leads to my next fact:
c) Batman seems powerless. To play on the Rick James quote, “The Joker’s a hell of a villain”, and Batman’s bat-skills get an endless string of tests, most of them showing how powerless one man really is against the evils of the world. It’s a depressing lesson, and he even begins to lose faith in himself. Except the world needs Batman… So it totally makes you root for him even more. ['Ere's a good quote from the movie: "You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain"].
d) Heath Ledger’s performance is good. But not Oscar-worthy good, I must say. While I really have no problems with the character he created in The Joker, to me his performance seemed more like the stepping-stone start to a really solid future acting career, and the kind of role that leads to other, greater roles for actors like him. I think it’s a shame he died (obviously), as this film does show the start of something promising. I just wouldn’t necessarily say it’s already all there, especially since the character he evokes doesn’t really touch the audience on an emotional level, like, say, . But I’ll let y’all judge for yourselves.
(Something small that I might as well mention here is that pity-Oscars have been a sad and awful trend in the past (often to directors), where awards have either been given to recognize a lifetime achievement (as in “let’s honour this guy before he kicks the bucket”), recognizing standard-quality films by long-standing patrons, to the detriment of younger directors whose work is more deserving. These people are then in turn sometimes given pity Oscars, and the result is just a bloody mess…
Suffice it to say that I hope Heath Ledger gets what he deserves in terms of Oscars… Whatever that may be.)
e) Breathtaking Visuals. Watch the first five seconds of the trailer and you’ll know what I mean.
So I would write more but I am le tired.
This film is awesome, and y’all should go see it if you haven’t already done so. I would even recommend waiting for it on Imax… I plan to go again.
Filed under: Author: jaxba, Miscellaneous, toronto | Tags: comedy, festival, just for laughs, toronto
Yes, that’s Martin Short, Jason Alexander and Jimmy Fallon…. AKA Ned Nederlander, George Costanza, and Idiot Boyfriend. They’re hosting the Toronto Just For Laughs Comedy Festival (Click for website where you can buy tickets)! Huuuuuge comedians are lined up and people in town should definitely check it out this week, July 23-27, at the following venues:
Just For Laughs Gala – July 24 (Short), 25 (Alexander), 26 (Fallon) – 7:00pm & 9:30pm
Jeff Dunham Concert - July 27 – 7:00pm
The Second City
- The Sketch Show – July 24 – 10:30pm
Winter Garden Theatre
- The Asian Invasion – July 24 – 7:00pm & 9:30pm
Wiseguys – July 25 – 7:00pm & 9:30pm
Wiseguys – July 26 – 7:00pm & 9:30pm
- Best of Homegrown 2008 – July 25 – 8:00pm
Mark Breslin’s Yuk Yuk’s
- Headliners – July 25 – 7:30pm
My friend saw the Headliner’s show last night at Yuk Yuk’s which had Elon Gold and Adam Hills and she said it was highly entertaining. I’ll be checking out most of the shows so expect some reviews.
Filed under: Author: E. Sempé, Cinema | Tags: Marcello Mastroianni, luchino visconti, albert camus, l'étranger, lo straniero, meursault, anna karina, monica vitti, l'eclisse, piero piccioni, giovanni fusco, algeria, existentialism, cinematheque ontario, michelangelo antonioni
Fast Forward Rating: FFFFF (5 out of 5)
I will always remember the first time I read Albert Camus’s L’Étranger. Details of where I was, who I was with, what I was doing, what my life was like at the time – all are embedded now in those pages of the battered Gallimard paperback. And similarly, I can also say I will always remember the first time I watched Italian maestro Luchino Visconti’s film adaptation, Lo Straniero.
Starring Marcello Mastroianni as Meursault, it is difficult at first to imagine such an engaging, charming and brilliant actor in such a dispossessed and emotionless role as that of Meursault. But then again, one might argue that only an actor of Mastroianni’s brilliance would be able to understand such a part, and ingeniously portray a man devoid of genius. Upon watching the film, it was easy to be convinced that the latter claim is true: Mastroianni is passive but firm, a follower but independent; he is an outsider.
Playing opposite Mastroianni as Meursault’s love interest Marie is Anna Karina. Intoxicatingly beautiful and yet disconcertingly distant, she is reminiscent of Michelangelo Antonioni’s quintessential female leads, most notably immortalised by Monica Vitti in L’Eclisse. In fact, this is not the only parallel with Antonioni’s work: Piero Piccioni’s score for Lo Straniero holds the same dysphoric undertones as the work of Giovanni Fusco, who worked with Antonioni on several of his films. It is not surprising that these parallels arise, since both bodies of work deal so heavily with the themes of the characters’ alienation and their futile existential struggle against indifference.
As an adaptation, Lo Straniero is extremely faithful to Camus’s novel. The only major perceptible differences are in the introduction, in which we see Meursault in prison in the very first scene, which works as an instigator for the telling of how he came to be there. Of course, there can be no comparison between this opening and Camus’s calmly indifferent first line “Aujourd’hui, maman est morte” (which figures immediately after the prison scene in the film); however, this discrepancy is understandable from the point of a director, and lends to the film a coherent direction, a visual target to work toward in the film’s otherwise thematically disconnected scenes.
Although Meursault’s relationship with Marie, his colleagues and neighbours is beautifully captured in scenes from the beaches and streets of Algiers, the strongest and most fascinating scenes of film appear in the second half, after the climax in which Meursault shoots the Arab. Most notable are the court scene – inwhich the weighing of Meursault’s crime and guilt resembles a circus act, as favour swings from one fat sweating lawyer to the other – and the final exchange between Meursault and the priest. In this scene, Mastroianni fully demonstrates the extent of his powers as an actor, as he chillingly expresses the supreme anguish of having no anguish at all in the face of committing murder and his own imminent death.
The only problem I can perceive in the film is the fact that it is impossible to find. It has rarely been seen since its release in 1967, and has never been released on VHS or DVD. As part of this season’s screenings at the Cinematheque Ontario, I was lucky to have the chance to watch it: this is only the third time it has been screened in Toronto for the past two decades. The reason as to why this is the case remains a mystery.
However, there is no doubt that adapting L’Étranger into a film was perhaps one of the most ambitious cinematic undertakings in film and literary history, but Visconti has proven he was worthy of the task. The film is by no means a substitute for the novel, but it is a masterful rendering of Camus’s L’Étranger into the medium of film, done with the utmost sensitivity and adherence to the atmosphere and development of the original. Five out of five.
- Video: Marcello Mastroianni, François Truffaut and Roman Polanski discuss the casting and direction of Lo Straniero by Luchino Visconti (Français)
- Video: music from Lo Straniero by Piero Piccioni
- IMDb: Profile and information on Lo Straniero on IMDb
- Luchino Visconti.net: Information and detailed summary of Lo Straniero with photos from film and shooting (Italiano)
- Cinematheque Ontario: For more screenings in Toronto this season (including Visconti, Resnais, Robbe-Grillet)