Monday, November 30, 2009

The Road to nowhere, alright

No doubt there will be feet a plenty pitter-pattering their way to the nearest cineplex with the opening The Road, based on Cormac McCarthy's novel. Of course Oprah liked it so it (the novel) must be good, right? I feel like I'm a minority of one. It wasn't just the daytime talk queen who loved this thing but a heck of a lot of critics, real or otherwise. But not me. This has to be one of the most plodding, repetitive, minimalist, lacking-in-drama, uninteresting character (had enough?) novels, to come along. Who knows what its popularity is about? A fascination with the end of the world? Continuing goodwill from McCarthy's saccharine All the Pretty Horses? Or simply a sweet story about a dad and his son, post-apocalypse? Inevitably the novel has hit the big screen. And the movie too is getting good reviews. (Rotten Tomatoes has a critics' collective 71% approval rate.) I'll withold comment until - or if - I actually see it. Viggo Mortensen, with his dark emotional countenance, is perfect for the lead. The boy is played by Kodi Smit-McPhee. The movie is directed by another Aussie, John Hillcoat (2005's The Proposition). I'm even willing to think this could be a case where the movie is better than the book. But that wouldn't be too hard.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Chris Rock's 'Good' doc

The immediate response to the idea of Chris Rock making a movie about 'Good Hair' has to be to laugh. And for about 98 per cent of this film there are more than enough laughs to go around. This movie, as might be expected, is about black women's obsession with hair. The movie opens at the Bronner Bros. Intl. Hair Show in Atlanta, the world expo of hair which attracts thousands of people every year. Women - but especially black women - Rock says, are obsessed with hair. Rock probably started this movie on a humourous note, about how comically crazed women can get about what's on top of their heads. But his research ended up revealing a lot of the not-too-pleasant side of the industry. For example, the obsession African-American women have with "relaxing" hair to make it more beautiful and "white." The chemical used in this "relaxing," sodium hydroxide, is highly toxic. A lab demonstration shows it can eat a pop can in a matter of hours and has been known to burn women's scalps. It's even used on kids. Not surprisingly this industry is worth billions of dollars. And Rock's documentary shows just how much women will spend for ideal hair, not just for relaxing but for "weaves" or extensions. The film also reveals where human hair comes from - India, and a Hindu ritual where women, often asleep, have their hair shaved off - as an offering to the gods! And the costs of weaves are astronomical. Black women can spend thousands each year on hair products. Chris Rock's Good Hair is a comedy all right. But it's a first-rate documentary about the hair products industry, the exploitiation of women's obsession, and the displacement of money when many have trouble putting food on the table.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Prosecution of Bush movie

Leave it Canucks to take over a movie that wasn't seeing the light of day in the U.S. Or so says Windsor film producer Jim Shaban. Shaban's NAFTC Studios got the rights to distribute controversial author Vincent Bugliosi's The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder. Shaban met with the famed prosecutor - who handled the Charles Manson trial and wrote the best-selling Outrage! about the O.J. Simpson case - after becoming aware of the "intense media black-out" south of the border of both the book and film. He says mainstream media "actively blocked" the production. In it Bugliosi uses his courtroom skills to lay out a point-by-point evidentiary case for why the former president should be hauled before the courts for invading Iraq in 2003. "I realized this project would never get the attention it deserves if it remained in the U.S.," Shaban says. The film, expected to be released in February, has a trailer produced locally in Leamington. Shaban has huge hopes for creating a film studio (see post below) in fields along Hwy. 401. He says it was "no small feat" to acquire the film rights. "It's one of the projects to kick start my company," he says. "Believe it or not, Ron, it opens doors for me in Hollywood. Controversial stuff works." The film is directed by David J. Burke, produced by Kip and Kern Konwiser, and executive producer is Peter Miller. Bugliosi and GWB LLC formed a production company to make it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Windsor film studio about to go up

It may be a farm field now but construction should start any day on the first building of Jim Shaban's NAFTC Studios just outside Windsor at Hwy. 401 and Manning Rd.
The first bulding will be a post-production house, and should be up and running by spring. "I just signed the construction contract last week," he told Windsor Detroit Film. This will be the first phase of what Shaban hopes will be a site with as many as four 40,000 sq. ft. sound stages. The building will cost about $200,000 plus material like editing and sound equipment. Each sound stage would cost $2 million. Shaban formerly owned the Palace and Lakeshore Cinemas but sold them a year and a half ago to an Ontario numbered company headed by Chris Woodall of Woodall Construction fame. He's using that money plus money from the sale of pieces of land from an adjoining overall 33 acre site to pay for construction. He says the property is in a high profile location along the 401 or "NAFTA Superhighway." (His firm is called North American Free Trade Consultants Inc.)..... Shaban was at the airport en route to Los Angeles to discuss film deals. He is in L.A. to sell the industry on Ontario's film production credits which provide up to 25 per cent for labour and services. He also thinks that with U.S. states cutting or considering reducing tax credits Ontario may be in a better financial position to make films. There has been talk in Michigan of course about cutting the state's 42 per cent credit. One company he's working with found out in the middle of filming in Iowa that that state was not going to honour its film credits "so they're scrambling." But Shaban would like to produce films in both Ontario and Michigan."In any buisiness down here it has to be a cross-border intent."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Berlin Wall down, more go up

The world earlier this month celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In doing so what might have been lost is acknowledgement of the walls that currently exist in the world. Canada's CBC-TV tomorrow examines several of these contemporary walls in documentary filmmaker Eileen Thalenberg's world broadcast premiere Up Against the Wall at 8 pm.....Where are these walls? We've all heard of Israel's security fence dividing the official state from the occupied West Bank. Then there is the 'Tortilla Wall' the U.S. is constructing along the Mexican border. More obscure are walls around the Spanish cities of Cueta and Melilla on the coast of Morocco bringing "Fortress Europe" to Africa and effectively preventing entry of Africans to Europe.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Windsor fest triples audience

The fifth annual Windsor International Film Festival tripled its audience this year. That's great news since the festival had taken a 20 per cent drop in attendance last year. Festival director Peter Coady attributed the upsurge to a "compressed" four-day event rather than being stretched-out over two weekends like last year's was. As well, virtually all films were at the downtown Capitol Theatre, keeping the location straight in everyone's minds rather than trying to keep track of various locations. The same was probably true with the condensed schedule. If you only have four days to see a film chances are you're going to get out and see it especially if it's only being shown once. Which was the case with the 34 films screened.....This is great news for the still young fest, and you could almost hear Coady breathe a sigh of relief that the event came off so well. The other big feather in his cap was that WIFF at the last minute attracted federal Telefilm funding which in the eyes of many means a festival has "made it.".....WIFF sold more than 6000 tickets. It also sold more than 150 passes. These were a great deal at $40 per, allowing unlimited access to films. Coady thought they would just sell 25 or 30.....On the U.S. side Coady was pleased that screenings at Michigan State and the Detroit Film Theatre attracted 800-900 attendance. There was limited advertising in publications like Metro Times and the Freep had a story Thursday....the Capitol Theatre seemed a natural for the fest and looks like it will continue to be the mainstay. It's largest venue the Pentastar Theatre packed almost 600 for films like Coco Before Chanel and Cairo Time. Nevertheless opening night shoulder-to-shoulder crowds put a scare into organizers. People had to exit Coco before being allowed in again to see Almodovar's Broken Embraces. Plus there was a huge line just to see Embraces. "We never thought we'd have to deal with crowd control," Coady said.....But crowds thinned out for the rest of the event and were easily manageable. To solve the problem Coady thinks more than one screening of popular films will probably take place next year. And the fest could add two or three more days. Last year's event was obviously too long. Organizers overcompensated with this year's abbreviated schedule.....Coady says there were a few glitches with the sound system. There were also interruptions when films didn't project properly during The Private Lives of Pippa Lee and The White Ribbon. But people "rolled with the punches" and despite being offered refunds no one took the festival up on it......

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Reverse Super Size Me

It may be Andrew Facca's first film. But he's absolutely confident there will be a market for it. The film, Voyage to Betterment, debuts tomorrow at Windsor's Lakeshore Cinemas. Facca, who used to own a manufacturing company and currently has an organic restaurant and a bar in downtown Windsor, had long been interested in what makes people sick. As a businessman he spent a lot of time in Mexico and California and noticed numerous juice bars. "It was apparent that the lifestyles of the people in San Diego were a lot different than the lifestyle of the average person in Windsor." His business partner, Dave Haas, was out of shape and noticed Andrew's different way of living. He asked how he could be healthier. Andrew decided to give him a 30 day challenge. He worked with a lab that put Dave through a number of before-and-after tests. Dave went from 225 to 195 pounds. His risk of diabetes declined 63 per cent. Heart disease, diabetes and cancer dropped 50 per cent.....That's when Andrew came up with the idea of a film. He assembled a group of eight Windsorites. They went through a similar 30 day experiment. The film shows their journey about how they thought about their health and what they did to make themselves healthier. It's sort of a reverse Super Size Me. The movie looks at the physical as well as the metaphysical. It attempts to "discover the hidden elements that contribute to well-being." Even the late great David Carradine makes an appearance. Facca is obsessed with preventive health. His mother suffered a massive heart attack. By age 23, 75 per cent of Americans have advanced arterial plaque; in 1900 one in 500 got cancer, today it's one in 2.5. But the film argues it's all preventable. The film's refrain: "Got consciousness?".....For more info & to purchase tickets go to the web site The film runs until Nov. 19. A gala reception will be held Thursday night.....Facca figures the film is powerful enough to get distribition. He's scouting film festivals. "There's been a really considerable interest from distributors."

Monday, November 9, 2009

More than 30 films pack Windsor fest

The Windsor International Film (WIFF) Festival gets underway in earnest Thursday with its strongest program in the fest's five year history. Check out these titles: Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces with Penelope Cruz, Tom Hooper's The Damned United with Michael Sheen and Colm Meaney, Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon, Anne Fontaine's Coco Before Chanel with Audrey Tautou, and Jane Campion's Bright Star...... There are 34 pictures in the four day event, all of which are being screened in downtown Windsor at the Capitol Theatre. (Yanks had a sneak preview with screenings of Canadian films from the WIFF in East Lansing and at the Detroit Film Theatre over the past week or so. Festrival director Peter Coady admits organizers want to boost attendance, after a decline last year, and bringing in more popular films is a way to do it. "It's going to appeal to a wide range of peoiple," he said. The festival is also selling passes for an almost ridiculously low $40 (an even better bargain for Americans since the USA buck goes further in Canada). One problem, however, is that films are being treated to one screening utilizing three rooms at the Capitol. If you want to see France's A Prophet, Jacques Audiard's story of a North African Muslim caught up in prison gang warfare, you'll have to miss Broken Embraces. Of course you can skip these more popular titles which will probably be available on DVD sooner or later or are otherwise playing at the local art house Bijou. If so check out films like the Romanian Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumbolu), about a police officer's refusal to crack down on low level crime, or A Touch of Grey, a Canadian film from Windsor-area director Sandra Wong Feldman about female mid-life crisis, or from Italy Mid-August Lunch (Gianni di Gregorio), an hilarious comedy about a middle aged mama's boy. If you missed it in September at the DFT you'll get a second chance to see, from Belgium, Lorna's Silence (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne), about a young Albanian woman's crisis of conscience. The Japanese film Departures (last year's Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film) by Yojiro Takita, will be screened Sunday...... The documentary program is also strong. The titles include Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam, Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould and It Might Get Loud, David Guggenheim's portrait of three masters of rock music's icon, the electric guitar - Jack White, Jimmy Page and The Edge. The Cove examines the brutal killing of dolphins off Japan's coast. Men for Sale is an uncompromising look at Montreal's sex trade.....Gala opening Thursday night at Caesars Windsor features Dilip Mehta's Cooking with Stella, a food-themed comedy set in India and co-written with sister Deepa Mehta (Water, Heaven on Earth).....For those interested in what's going on in the emerging world of Windsor filmmaking there will be a panel discussion Saturday at 11 am. And of course there will be the products of this year's edition of the 48 Hour Flickfest Finalists - local filmmakers who were given 48 hours to make a film....For more programming and ticket sales (including advance tikcets) go to For those wishing to do film and meal packages you can check Flick and a Feast packages for $40. See

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Mayor's right-hand-woman cherished role

Being chief of staff for Windsor's mayor doesn't allow a lot of free time to act in movies. So Dylan Pearce, director of the recently-released Windsor-made film Whatever It Was, accommodated Norma Coleman by shooting the scenes she performs in, during evenings and on weekends. "Dylan was great working around my schedule," she says. It was Coleman's first film role and she cherishes the memory. "It was a great experience. I'd love to do it again if I had the opportunity." Coleman is well known to local audiences from her roles in several theatre companies but especially the Windsor Light Music Theatre. Originally from Toronto her first role after moving to Windsor was in Theatre Alive's Birth of a City based on the Carl Morgan book about Windsor's history. In 2007 Coleman played Mrs. Robinson in Theatre Windsor's production of The Graduate. She played opposite Christopher Lawrence Menard who had the role of Benjamin. Menard wrote Whatever It Was. Pearce came to see the stage production and met Coleman. Coleman's role in The Graduate dovetailed perfectly with her older woman character in Whatever It Was. The film is an adult drama about love, temptation and betrayal. Asked if acting in film is different or more difficult than acting on stage she said it's different. "In a theatre production you rehearse from beginning to end and you flow right through from the first act to the second act," she said. The film shoots were entirely out of sequence with, for example, the beginning of the film shot at the end. That requires relying on memory. A character might be in a scene where she is coming out of a room. But the continuation of the scene is shot two weeks later. That takes not only memory but keeping "the same sort of energy," Coleman says. And, on stage, an actor has to project her voice so those at the back of the hall can hear. "In film it's more natural," she says. "It's hard to explain but it's just a more subtle performance." Next up for Coleman is her role in 12.13 Productions' March female version of The Odd Couple (she plays "Olive" Madison) and in June the same theatre company's production of WIT. Coleman has the main role of the English professor suffering from cancer played in the made-for-TV movie by Emma Thompson.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Canadian films this week at DFT

Change your ring tone to the Hockey Night in Canada theme. Put a toque on your head. Order a 'double-double' from Tim Hortons. Then head over to the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts ( for this year's installation of flics from the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF).....First up Wed., Nov. 4, 7 pm, is Benoit Pilon's The Necessities of Life starring Natar Ungalaaq (The Fast Runner). It's about the (gently humourous) culture clash between the Inuit of the far north and southern white society.....On Nov. 5 at 7 pm is Bruce McDonald's Pontypool, a kind of intellectual horror story where small town radio DJ Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) gets reports of stange happenings, tries to make sense of them all, and distills some homespun philosophy.....On Nov. 6 (7 pm) and Nov. 7 (4 pm), Philippe Falardeau's It's Not Me I Swear is a charming coming-of-age film in the tradition of Truffaut's Small Change set in 1960s Quebec.....The WIFF schedule is now out with the main event taking place in downtown Windsor Nov. 12 - 15. ( I'll have more in an upcoming post.

Physics class was never this fun

The most interesting production in the Detroit Institute of Arts' Action - Reaction video installation exhibit (which runs through Jan. 3) has to be Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss's, who take science experiments to a whole new level and in such a fascinating way. Their 31-minute film will have your jaw dropping as you await what happens next in their assembly line of physics and chemistry experiments that show the effect of one action on another, whether it be tires, weights, fire or chemical explosions - using household objects like step ladders, balloons and pop bottles - as one action causes a reaction, causing another action, causing - you guessed it - all down the line. Physics class was never this fun. (