Posts by Craig the Critic

“Say hello to my little documentary!”

Mar 29, 2011
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As many of you know by now, melanoma I’ve been tracking with YouTube sensation Philip DeFranco and his 30 Day Movie Club. Everyday is a different movie and today’s is “Cocaine Cowboys”. This 2006 documentary about the cocaine boom of the 80’s in Miami is a fascinating (and frightening) glimpse into the world of drug trafficking. I talk about it more in-depth in my vlog posting. Check it out!

Don’t forget to hit the “Like” button (I’m emotionally needy and require much affirmation) and forward the link to all your friends and enemies! Happy Tuesday!

“The Prestige”

Mar 28, 2011


Back in 2006 there there were two highly acclaimed films that centred around magicians in the 19th century. One was remarkable, discount the other remarkably disappointing. My friends and I retitled the latter as “The Boring-ist”. It featured Ed Norton and Paul Giamatti (both great actors), but was so poorly executed. So, I won’t bore you with a review on that one. Rather, allow me steer you in the direction of the far superior movie – The Prestige.

This Christopher Nolan, period-piece is exceptional across the board. We journey back and forth through the timeline of a long and sour history between two feuding magicians played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale. I don’t want to give away too much because this is the kind of film you really need to experience firsthand. But let me just say, our tale begins with Borden (Bale) accidentally killing the wife of Angiers (Jackman). This, of course, creates a fairly immense wedge between the two men. Borden is a smart but cocky young magician who obsesses over creating the most deceiving illusions. This gains him some local celebrity and his career as an outstanding magician begins. This, however, is slowed down as Angiers, full of grief and revenge, sabotages one of Borden’s tricks in front of a live audience. The result is that Borden loses a couple of fingers. Not a good thing for a man who’s career is slight of hand.

Borden takes Angiers’ wife. Angiers takes Borden’s fingers. Tit for tat, right? Well, not really. And Angiers knows it. Borden finds a lovely bride, they have  child together and Angiers’ anger festers as he remains a widower and childless. At the same time Borden continues to build a successful magic show. The highlight of his show is a trick, The Transported Man, in which Borden steps into one box and reappears instantly in another box across the other end of the stage. It’s breath-taking. The crowds love it! And Angiers becomes obsessed with finding out his trick. Without giving away the rest of the plot, the film builds on this foundation of anger, jealousy, obsession and pride. The interplay between Jackman and Bale is wonderful. Bale plays the cocky character perfectly, while Jackman develops this heart-broken shell of a man with slow intensity and emotion. And both are driven by their respective obsessions.

Christopher Nolan is responsible for the brilliant pacing and use of flashbacks. The whole film has us jumping back and forth through a period of about 10 years, telling us this tale of mystery and passion in a way that keeps us eager to see what’s around the next corner. He won’t show you anything until he wants you to see it. Just like a great magician. It’s actually quite profound. Here is a film about magicians and Nolan, as the director, approaches the making of the film as a magician himself. Brilliant.

There is so much more to the story and other fantastic characters. Michael Caine plays the wise mentor, Scarlett Johansson plays the sultry assistant/mistress and David Bowie plays the one historically true character, Nikola Tesla (renowned pioneer of electricity). All of these actors are a delight, particularly Caine. I’d love to share more about the story but I really don’t want to give too much away. In the film, they explain how there are three acts of a trick; the Pledge, the Turn and finally, the Prestige. The last act is the “WHA?!” part of the trick. It’s the thing you can’t believe, you never thought possible. Like the Prestige in a magic trick, this film has a fantastic final act. And that is why I really can’t say anymore about the film’s story.

So, go get the DVD or download it from iTunes or Netflix or whatever. Just find a couple of hours this week and treat yourself to this finely crafted film. It’s like a great magic show; mysterious, captivating and mind-blowing.

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia

Mar 24, 2011
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So, artificial I’ve been tracking this week with YouTube sensation, online Phillip DeFranco and his movie club. Each day he picks a movie, weight loss everyone subscribed watches and then the next day he posts his review of it. He invites the rest of us to send in our thoughts via video response if we’d like. Well, I like. And so, I’ve been trying to respond to as many of these films as I can. Today’s film is “The Wild a Wonderful Whites of West Virginia”. This is a documentary about a truly wild family, The Whites, from Boone County in West Virginia. These here are mountain folk, there’s no doubt about it. Anywho, check out my video response to Philly D.
If you’ve seen it and care to enlighten us with your thoughts, please comment below and on YouTube.


Mar 24, 2011
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Check out my vlog review of “Monsters”!

Make sure you comment!

“The Kid Stays In The Picture”

Mar 20, 2011
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This 2002 documentary is based on Robert Evans’ 1994 autobiography of the same title. It tells the incredibly dramatic story  of one of Hollywood’s greatest producers, story Robert Evans. Starting with his acting career in the 50’s, check it continues through to the mid 90’s. It is engrossing, opisthorchiasis hilarious, heart-breaking and incredibly fascinating.

With Evans narrating the whole thing (what a voice!), you get this wonderful first person account of Hollywood through the 50-80s. He’s a great story-teller and the stories are even greater. From nasty dealings with Francis Ford Coppola to countless romances at his legendary “Woodland” mansion, Evans has lived enough life to fit into 10 lifetimes. Particularly heart-breaking is the story of his one true love, then famous actress, Ali MacGraw. While Evans has had six — count ’em, six — wives, there’s no doubt that his marriage to Ali was his truest. But, as with most of Evans’ life, all good things must come to an end and she left him in ’72 for the biggest actor in Tinseltown, Steve McQueen. His account of this in the movie is profoundly sad and moving.

But there are also lots of fun, amazing stories. Like Evans’ relationships with Roman Polanski, Jack Nicholson and the like. While he has had lots of skeptics, enemies and haters, he has certainly been blessed with a few very deep, true friendships. And the archival footage throughout the movie is amazing. You don’t just hear Evans talk about his friends. There is tonnes of footage, photo montages, etc…showing him chumming it up with people like Henry Kissinger, Kirk Douglas and Slash from G’n’R.

Throughout the film he recounts his seemingly ever-increasing moxie and luck. He narrates with pride and fondness of those times in his journey. He also speaks with authentic regret of the bad choices he made. Those often led to the hard times. Dramatic, life-changing hard times. Fights with studio heads, drug-busts and psych wards. His life plays out like a mad roller coaster. Yet throughout the film I couldn’t help but feel it’s an honest retelling. Well, as honest as you can get from a Hollywood autobiography. I’m sure there are moments of “embellishment”. But the storytelling is so good, one can forgive, even ignore, any potential fiction.

If you’re a fan of Tinseltown and/or enjoy exceptional autobiographies, this is one documentary you must see. Thoroughly entertaining, great archival footage and incredible storytelling.

“Saint Ralph”

Mar 15, 2011
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This fictional, ophthalmologist Canadian film was brought to my attention by a good friend of mine. He’s a runner and this film centres around an extraordinary young runner from Hamilton, search Ontario in the early 1950’s.

Steeped in a Catholic upbringing, 14 yr. old Ralph Walker is looking for a miracle. His father was lost to the war and his mother is lost to a coma. He is lost to his desire for a miracle. Young Ralph is a delightful character; honest, real and unconventional. Like any young teenager, he is curious and caught up in discovering the joys and pains of youthful passions. He is also regularly caught in his indulgences and chastised harshly by the stern, Father Fitzpatrick (the school’s Head Master). One of his punishments is being sent to run with the school’s running club. Let me be clear; Ralph is not an athlete.  So, this is actually a significant punishment for our hero. But none of it keeps Ralph from carving out his own path. He keeps on as a classic dreamer and free-spirit, speaking his mind and following his heart.

But, when he’s faced with the very real possibility of his mother never waking from her coma, Ralph earnestly searches for an answer, a miracle. He comes up with a crazy idea…well, crazy to everyone but Ralph. Based on very poor theological reasoning, he believes that if he can win the Boston Marathon (a miraculous achievement) then God will wake his mother and they’ll live happily ever after. A miracle for a miracle. Seems fair, right?

Well, no one takes him too seriously at first. After all, this is Ralph; head-in-the-clouds, day-dreaming Ralph. But he is serious. He intensifies his training, outrunning his older club counterparts. He enters into Hamilton’s classic, “Around the Bay” race (30K) and he wins! This convinces Ralph that he is ready to go to Boston and make a miracle happen. But his seniors (mainly Father Fitzpatrick) become increasingly concerned that this little boy is going to set himself up for extreme failure. Slowly the one man who comes to Ralph’s side is the running club’s coach, Father Hibbert (Campbell Scott). Father Hibbert trains Ralph for the Boston Marathon despite his boss’ explicit instruction to stop. Ooooo, nothing says “rebel” like a junior priest disobeying a senior priest! You get the picture. The tension increases, the stakes get higher and Father Hibbert and ambitious Ralph arrive in Boston. Of course, this is the pinnacle of the film, so I won’t give away the ending.

On the surface, “Saint Ralph” is a basic, even cliché, underdog drama. The directing is standard; effective but not outstanding. The actors are great, but held down by stereotyped character writing and a predictable script. All that said, it kept my attention, raised my pulse at the right times and was very satisfying. I’m not sure if it was because I live in Hamilton and therefore felt connected to the heritage and locations. Or maybe it’s because, like Ralph, I’m not much of an athlete but have enjoyed the discipline and rush of running myself. Whatever it was, I personally enjoyed this film a great deal. As a critic, I found it to be “okay” and unexceptional.

If you’re a runner yourself (or a Hamiltonian) I think you’ll likely have a good time watching this one. It’s nowhere near as compelling as running classics like, “Chariots of Fire” or “Prefontaine”. But then again, there isn’t an abundance of films that revolve around such a popular and addictive activity. So, you’re likely eager to find whatever you can. And “Saint Ralph” does not disappoint. This saint connects with the soul of the runner, underdogs and dreamers everywhere.

…and the Oscar goes to…

Feb 28, 2011
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Oscar mania is over for another year and I’m sure there are many a hung-over celebrity sprinkled throughout the hotels of Hollywood today. But the show must go on and I must blog my thoughts on it all. Read More »

Two more sleeps…

Feb 25, 2011

Ever since I can remember, obesity I’ve been obsessed with watching the Oscars. As a kid I would cut the nominations’ page out of the newspaper and star the ones I believe would win the statuette. I’ve always prided myself in figuring out what the academy would decide. Of course, for sale I haven’t always agreed. I often disagree. But that’s not the point. The challenge of getting into the minds of Hollywood’s elite, pharm figuring out who is the chosen darling of the year…this is the point. And yes, it is a decent reflection of what films are the worth watching each year. Read More »


Feb 24, 2011

Alright. I finally did it. For years I’ve dreamt about it. And now my dream has finally come true! Read More »