Friday, September 05, 2008

Flickers #11: Toronto Opens, and Weekend Movies: Bangkok Dangerous, Hunter S. Thompson Double Bill

The Toronto International Film Festival in recent years has showcased movies -- including four of last year's nominees for best picture -- that have gone on to grab critical acclaim and Oscar attention.

The fest's 33rd edition, which opened Thursday, features Spike Lee's Miracle at St. Anna (in the Tampa market, it won't be available to critics until the day before it opens); the Coen Brothers' Burn After Reading (see poster, left); The Wrestler, directed by Darren Aronofsky; and new releases from Kevin Smith, Jonathan Demme and Anne Fontaine.

Toronto is the biggest film fest in North America, as Julie Bloom notes in The New York Times.

Fest numbers, as mentioned in Mark Olsen's preview in the Los Angeles Times: 249 features, 63 shorts, 64 countries, more than 10 days.

Olsen's list of the top 10 most notable flicks playing Toronto:

Burn After Reading (Coens)
Che (Steven Soderbergh)
The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)
Me and Orson Welles (Richard Linklater)
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (Peter Sollett)
Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme)
Religulous (Larry Charles)
RocknRolla (Guy Ritchie)
Synechdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman)
The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky)

For live reports from the fest, check out Cinematical

Bangkok Dangerous, a Nicolas Cage vehicle co-directed by Chinese-born twins the Pang Brothers, looks to be the sole movie opening at multiple theaters around the Tampa Bay area this weekend.

As is the norm lately, there were no advance screenings for critics. That's probably a good thing for the studio, as the reviews are scathing: The thriller, starring cage as a hit man who strikes up an odd-couple friendship with street punk Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm), has received a 10% rating (rotten) at Rotten Tomatoes.

"Hollywood and the television industry have long since sucked what they require from the tropes and rhythms of Asian films, and parts of Bangkok Dangerous, far from seeming unfamiliar or freshly stylized, offer nothing that you couldn’t catch on CSI," writes Anthony Lane in The New Yorker.

It's a remake of the Pangs' directorial debut of the same name.

"Departing from its 1999 model, the script makes Cage's Joe a speaking character, unlike the deaf mute killer who gave the original its unique oddity," according to David D'Arcy, writing in Screen Daily. Cage, whose company co-produced the film, narrates the opening as if Bangkok were the Saigon of Apocalypse Now or the Los Angeles of Chinatown, yet he manages a reasonable Hong Kong deadpan when killing on orders. Mercifully, his lines are few; the Cage nasality doesn't befit a killer.

More entertaining and satisfying film fare this weekend might be found at the Hunter S. Thompson-themed double bill, tonight at the Beach Theatre in St. Petersburg Beach:

Gonzo, a documentary which has gained major critical kudos, plays at 8 p.m., followed at 10:30 by Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro.

The latter film, directed by Terry Gilliam and released in 1998, is strictly an acquired taste - some interesting visuals, but on the whole a long (128 minutes), muddled mess. Where the Buffalo Roam, a better movie covering some of the same ground - the friendship between Thompson (Bill Murray) and his attorney (Peter Boyle) - was released in 1980.

Admission is $7 for one of the above movies, or $10 for the double bill. The Saturday kids' matinee is the 1939 animated version of Gulliver's Travels (10 a.m., free admission), and the Rocky Horror Show with live cast plays Saturday night at 10 to midnight ($5 admission). The Beach is at 315 Corey Avenue. For more information, go to the web site or call (727) 360-6697.

Meanwhile, French thriller Tell No One continues at Tampa Theatre. For more info, see the below post.

International co-production Transsiberian, a China-to-Moscow thriller set on a train and shot in Lithuania, also looks like a worthwhile alternative to the usual fare, and Woody Allen's Vicky Christina Barcelona and the documentary American Teen are still playing at Vets.

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