CINELATION | Movie Reviews by Christopher Beaubien
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Criterion has BRAND UPON THE BRAIN!

Written by Christopher Beaubien • May 20, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

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BRAND UPON THE BRAIN! (2007) Trailer

brand_brainThe Criterion Collection, always a class act, is releasing the DVD (#440) of Brand Upon The Brain! (2007) by cult Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin. Brand Upon the Brain! was one of my absolute favorites when given a limited release last year. It was number five on my list of the best films of 2007. Isabella Rossellini (King of the Corner, 2004) takes her madness to overdrive whilst crashing into a basket full of kittens with her vocal narration (“The Past! The Past!!!”). Rossellini is as fearless as when she and Maddin last collaborated on The Saddest Music In The World (2003), where she played a morbid brewery owner who had her legs replaced with prosthetics made of glass and filled with her very own beer.

You have to see it to believe it.

Brand Upon The Brain! is another twisted homage to silent pictures and Luis Bunuel (L’âge d’or, 1930) with Maddin’s stylistic fingerprints smeared all over it. This one is a surreal memoir to Maddin’s childhood where he lives on a remote island with his family. His mother (Gretchen Krich, Henry Fool, 1997) is forever watching young Guy Maddin from her Gothic lighthouse tower with an ungainly periscope. She communicates through a speaker that like deranged gargling. Title Cards stand in for much of the dialogue — “Guy, come home for supper or I’ll sell your island!!”. Maddin’s father stands in as a mad scientist practicing ghoulish experiments in his dungeon. I get so giddy every time I think of “Orphan Nectar”.

And it’s much funnier than E. Elias Merhige’s BEGOTTEN (1990)!

Special screenings of Brand Upon the Brain! were performed by live orchestras and narration read aloud by either Isabella Rossellini, Crispin Glover (Back to the Future, 1985) Laurie Anderson, John Ashbery, Guy Maddin, Louis Negrin, and Eli Wallach (The Ugly from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, 1966 AND he was also starred with Rossellini in King of the Corner — See it. It’s really good.). Also included is a new documentary featuring interviews with the director and crew members, deleted scenes, trailer, a new essay by film critic Dennis Lim, and two new Maddin-directed short films: It’s My Mother’s Birthday Today and Footsteps, an oddball featurette behind the making of the Brain!’s sounds effects. The DVD will be released in early August. I can’t wait!

The rest of Criterion’s August slate includes Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (an upgrade of #17, 1975), Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger’s The Small Back Room (#441, 1949) and Keisuke Kinoshita’s Twenty-hour Eyes (#442, 1954). Some day I’ll brave the gag reflex and watch Salò, and while I’m at it I’ll also see Dusan Makavejev’s Sweet Movie (#390, 1974).

Jim Jarmusch’s Upcoming Project (2009)

Written by Christopher Beaubien • May 19, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

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American indie favorite Jim Jarmusch, whose directorial debut Stranger Than Paradise was one of my favourite films of 1984, is currently filming his new thriller The Limits of Control in Spain. Bill Murray (Rushmore, 1998), Tilda Swinton (Best Supporting Actress for Michael Clayton, 2007) and Jim Jarmusch are reunited after their splendid collaboration with Broken Flowers (2005). In that film, Murray played an emotionally paralyzed and middle aged Don Juan whose odyssey involves revisiting past lovers and finding the mother to his estranged son.

The Limits of Control centers on the trademark Jarmusch loner, played by Jarmusch regular Isaach De Bankolé (Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, 1999), this time plotting a heist. Other actors involved are John Hurt (Love and Death on Long Island, 1998), Gael Garcia Bernal (The King, 2006), Hiam Abbass (The Syrian Bride, 2004), Paz de la Huerta (Chelsea Walls, 2001), Alex Descas (Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes, 2003), Youki Kudoh (Jarmusch’s Mystery Train, 1989), Luis Tosar (Miami Vice, 2006) and Jean-Francois Stevenin (The Man on the Train, 2002).

Hopefully, Jarmusch’s new film will stay on the level of Broken Flowers and not slide down into the hell of Year of the Horse (1997). The release date is the first quarter of 2009.

The MUMMY III Trailer Has Awakened…

Written by Christopher Beaubien • May 18, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

“The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” Trailer

Undead soldiers, dragons, Maria Bello, and a Yeti can be found in The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. The action is moved from Egypt to China where a resurrected emperor (Jet Li – Danny the Dog (Great Title!) aka Unleashed (Lousy Title.), 2005) vows revenge against a sorceress (the lovely Michelle Yeoh – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000) Be afraid, the director is hack Rob Cohen (The Skulls, 2000 and Stealth, 2005) though he may be forgiven if his upcoming King of the Nudies (2009), a biopic of skin flick filmmaker Russ Meyers (Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, 1965), is accomplished.

Brandon Fraser (Gods and Monsters, 1998) has returned to the franchise as Rick O’Connell, the closest Fraser will ever get to this generation’s Raiders of the Lost Ark (1982). As much fun as the first Mummy (1999) was, comparison to the first Indy movie is a little sad.

mummyRachel Weisz (The Shape of Things, 2003) renounces her return in the threequel as the sexiest, klutziest, and boldest librarian ever, Evelyn Carnahan. Maria Bello will helm the role as the female sidekick which is inspired on part of casting director Ronna Kress (Moulin Rogue!, 2001).

One of the benefits of the franchise is that Rick and Evelyn stay together throughout their adventures. They get married (Yay!), but they have a kid (Boo!). Why oh WHY do action heroes HAVE to be saddled with a lame wise-cracking child in distress? It ruins the whole lovers-in-peril dynamic.

There should be a law that all male adventurers with romantic aspirations need to get a vasectomy.

Even Indy has to have a kid in the upcoming movie with the ridiculously long title (5 days left…)! And I wish that Marion Ravenwood, played by the incredibly hot Karen Allen (When Will I Be Loved, 2004), was the love interest in all three Indiana Jones movies. The previous Indy girls, Kate Capshaw (Spielberg’s wife) and Alison Doody, lacked charisma and spunk.

The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor opens August 1st, which now negates The Scorpion King (2002) like a bastard out of the trilogy.

Wall•E is going to Disneyland!

Written by Christopher Beaubien • May 18, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

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Vimeo has posted captured footage of an actual Wall•E robot that has been manufactured by the good people at Disney (aka Globotech Industries). The life-size replica was spotted in L.A. trying to sight Eve at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Along the way, he came across some curious bystanders on the street to study.

It’s Alive!

Many Wall-Es will be built (“They have the technology! Better! Stronger! Faster!”) to run amuck in Disneyland. They’ll entertain fun-lovin’ patrons and will sell them deep-fried, yet overpriced Ratagans-on-a-stick. The only concern scientists have is a repeat of the fiasco that took place with murderous robots at the Itchy and Scratchy Land fourteen years ago.

I want Wall•E for my birthday.

TOWELHEAD Trailer Is Unwrapped

Written by Christopher Beaubien • May 16, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

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Warner Independent Pictures is releasing Towelhead, the theatrical debut of filmmaker Alan Ball, the creator of Six Feet Under, the upcoming True Blood series and is also the Academy Award Winning writer of American Beauty (1999). The film premiered in the Toronto Film Festival with the title Nothing Is Private. It has been named back in the US to Towelhead, the same title of the Alicia Erian novel that Ball has based his written adaptation on.

“Towelhead” Trailer

Set during the first Gulf War, a teenage Arab-American girl named Jasira whose new found and confused sexual awareness results in drastic measures by her mother (Maria Bello, The Cooler, 2003). She is sent away from New York to a small town in Texas to live with her strict, disciplinary Lebanese father, Rifat (Peter Macdissi, Three Kings, 1999). While the Middle Eastern war spreads prejudice at home, they struggle to be recognized as a respected Americans. Jasira is played by newcomer Summer Bishil who is running as fast as she can from children’s television programming to dramatic material more mature and respectable, much like Anne Hathaway did with Havoc (2005).

Director Ball is still testing the water with another plot about the adult male leaching after the underage girl. A bigoted Army revisionist played by Aaron Eckhart (Your Friends and Neighbors, 1998) is torn between his racism and his attraction for the minor. Eckhart, who exudes sliminess as well as James Spader (Secretary, 2002), says to girl in private: “You know what you do. You know what you do to men.” Ewww…

Watching the Towelhead trailer, the tampon sequence brings to mind a scene from Tamara Jenkin’s Slums of Beverley Hills (1998) where a well-meaning father (Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine, 2006) takes his mortified daughter (Natasha Lyonne, But I’m A Cheerleader, 1999) out bra shopping. I’m also reminded of the menstrual-minded Canadian werewolf-horror film Ginger Snaps (2000).

towelhead2Towelhead also stars Toni Collette (Muriel’s Wedding, 1994 and Japanese Story, 2003) and Matt Letscher (Identity, 2003) as welcoming, sarcastic Liberal neighbors. Here’s hoping this daring American indie is sharp, poignant and uncompromising as Alan Ball’s previous efforts.

The release date is August 28th.