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Rufus

A vampire movie shot in Dundurn, Saskachewan.  Make sure you watch the trailer.

Rufus is afraid and alone. Stranded in a sleepy prairie town after the death of his hundred-and-seven-year-old traveling companion, Rufus is determined to make a fresh start. Hunted, poked and prodded, Rufus knows people are always pegging him as this or that. If there really are vampires, Rufus has never met one. Sure he has some quirks. So what if he likes the taste of blood? It’s not like he’s addicted. Rufus does not age or feel the passage of time. he’s a boy and will always remain so. When a multi-national drug company discovers Rufus? genome just might be the fountain of youth and a cunning vampire hunter arrives to claim the boy as the property of Bristol Anderson Pharmaceuticals, Rufus knows it’s time to move on. The only problem is, Rufus like his new life and the pretty girl next door.There’s no such thing as vampires! They are just stories in books. What’s a boy to do?

Roger Ebert’s 10 Great Film’s of All Time

Sadly I haven’t seen all of these.  As a tribute to one of my favourite reviewers of all time, I will make sure I see all of them.

At one point in pondering this list, here’s what I thought I would do: I would simply start all over with ten new films. Once any film has ever appeared on my S&S list, I consider it canonized. “Notorious” or “The Gates of Heaven,” for example, are still two of the ten best films of all time, no matter what a subsequent list says.

I decided not to do that–trash the 2002 list and start again. It was too much like a stunt. Lists are ridiculous, but if you’re going to vote, you have to play the game. Besides, the thought of starting with a blank page and a list of all the films ever made fills me with despair.

So there must be one new film.

The two candidates, for me, are Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York” (2008) and Terrene Malick’s “The Tree of Life” (2011). Like the Herzog, the Kubrick and the Coppola, they are films of almost foolhardy ambition. Like many of the films on my list, they were directed by the artist who wrote them. Like several of them, it attempts no less than to tell the story of an entire life,

In “Synecdoche,” Kaufman does this with one of the most audacious sets ever constructed: An ever-expanding series of boxes or compartments within which the protagonist attempts to deal with the categories of his life. The film has the insight that we all deal with life in separate segments, defined by choice or compulsion, desire or fear, past or present. It is no less than a film about life.

In “The Tree of Life,” Malick boldly begins with the Big Bang and ends in an unspecified state of attenuated consciousness after death. The central section is the story of birth and raising a family.

Speaking of Roger Ebert, can I say that it is awesome that someone who on his dying day was still planning new projects.

What in the world is a leave of presence? It means I am not going away. My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me. What’s more, I’ll be able at last to do what I’ve always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review.

At the same time, I am re-launching the new and improved Rogerebert.com and taking ownership of the site under a separate entity, Ebert Digital, run by me, my beloved wife, Chaz, and our brilliant friend, Josh Golden of Table XI. Stepping away from the day-to-day grind will enable me to continue as a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, and roll out other projects under the Ebert brand in the coming year.

I respect Roger Ebert tremendously and I hope he rests in peace but I want to be planning, organizing, and putting together projects until the day I die.  Good for Ebert.

Ebert, 70, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, and who was without question the nation’s most prominent and influential film critic, died Thursday in Chicago. He had been in poor health over the past decade, battling cancers of the thyroid and salivary gland.

He lost part of his lower jaw in 2006, and with it the ability to speak or eat, a calamity that would have driven other men from the public eye. But Ebert refused to hide, instead forging what became a new chapter in his career, an extraordinary chronicle of his devastating illness that won him a new generation of admirers. “No point in denying it,” he wrote, analyzing his medical struggles with characteristic courage, candor and wit, a view that was never tinged with bitterness or self-pity.

Always technically savvy – he was an early investor in Google – Ebert let the Internet be his voice. His rogerebert.com had millions of fans, and he received a special achievement award as the 2010 “Person of the Year” from the Webby Awards, which noted that “his online journal has raised the bar for the level of poignancy, thoughtfulness and critique one can achieve on the Web.” His Twitter feeds had 827,000 followers.

Ebert was both widely popular and professionally respected. He not only won a Pulitzer Prize – the first film critic to do so – but his name was added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005, among the movie stars he wrote about so well for so long. His reviews were syndicated in hundreds of newspapers worldwide.

Warren Kinsella’s take on the Jack Layton movie

Kinsella has some interesting things to say about the Jack Layton film

As such, Layton comes across as he was in life — much liked and, even for some, much loved. Even when a gay-hating constituent tosses a cup of hot coffee at his face, Layton is nonplussed.

Instead of going home and changing his shirt and tie, Layton goes ahead with a date with his future wife, Olivia Chow (played with great skill by Sook-Yin Lee). Chow’s mother tells her daughter that Layton is crazy.

In Jack, Layton isn’t crazy — but it is made clear that he regularly drove his staff and family crazy. His relentless positivism, it turns out, was no act. When things got bad (and they did often before May 2011), Layton would simply pick up his guitar and start singing. And thereby drive his staff and family crazy.

Among those driven batty by Layton’s unflagging optimism were his cadre of loyalists. So, we see actors portraying political legends like Brian Topp (with more hair), Brad Lavigne (with more height), as well as Karl Belanger and Anne McGrath (who has far more real-life charm than portrayed in the film), groaning about Layton’s refusal to ever accept life’s glass might be half empty.

Utterly missing from Jack is a hint, much less an explanation, for Layton’s extraordinary win in 2011.

Was it his shrewd use of his cane and his health issues, a la Lucien Bouchard? Was it his sunny personality, which contrasted so favourably to the glum Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff? His unflappable determination?

The viewer is left with no answers. An explanation might have made Jack better. And it might have assisted the NDP, too, now under Thomas Mulcair, looking like a shadow of what it was under Layton.

That aside, Jack is an enjoyable film about a pretty extraordinary fellow. One who, like Moses, led his followers to the political promised land, but who never got the chance to go there with them.

It’s on TV Sunday night, and it’s worth your time. And, if nothing else, it’ll give you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Charles Adler on the CBC!

Time LAX

A wonderful time lapse of Lose Angeles.  It made me remember how much I miss L.A. and how much I would love to live there some day.

Christmas Gift Guide for Teenage Boys | 2012 Edition

A couple of weeks ago search results looking for Christmas gift ideas started to appear so I knew it was time to dust off the Christmas Gift Guides and start on 2012’s.  As usual, I start with the kids and move from there.  If you have any idea or feedback, let me know in the comments.

Shopping for a tween or a teenager is hard.  Amazon suggests MacBooks, they all want $600 iPhone and if you get it wrong, they will hate you forever.  Welcome to shopping for a teenager.  Here are some ideas that are cool, won’t break the bank, and may actually inspire them.

HTC Desire CI have long been a fan of Virgin Mobile prepaid for teens.  You can control their data, their minutes, and if something goes wrong and the phone is lost, you aren’t hit with a massive phone bill or contract.  Everyone wins.  The HTC Desire C ($149) has the newest version of Android Ice Cream Sandwich, a 5 megapixel camera, and a sound system that is by Beats by Dre.  It’s only $149 upfront and you can either put that on their no-contract plan or go prepaid.  It’s not a Samsung Galaxy III or a iPhone 5 but for someone that is 12 or 13 years old, they don’t need a better phone than you.  If  you really want to spoil the kid, you can get them some Beats by Dre headphones ($149) to go with it but a more fiscally sound and responsible choice may be these highly rated and fairly inexpensive JVC Xtreme-Xplosivs headphones ($14.99).

Kodak Playsport video cameraWhile Kodak has fallen on hard times, it still makes a great little compact camcorder in the Kodak Playsport ($80).  It’s shockproof, rustproof, and waterproof to a depth of 10 ft. Since it is designed to be used on the go, it has built-in image stabilization to smooth out the ride. It also has a share feature making it easy to get the video onto YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.  If you want more stability from a manufacturer, check out the Sony Bloggie camera (or the Sport model).  All are great options for your young aspiring filmmaker.

Of course they will need some adventures to film.  Geocaching is extremely popular all over the world and Magellan has created the eXplorist GC Waterproof Geocaching GPS ($119).  It easily connect to the Geocaching.com User Community and perform "Send to GPS," create and sync Pocket Queries, and upload Field Notes. Pre-loaded with the most popular geocaches in the world.  Additionally, the product comes packed with common outdoor GPS features, such as waypoint creation, a worldwide base map, active tracking, and trip odometer.

If they are a gamer, chances are that they have grown out their Nintendo DS.  If they have, check out the PS Vita ($249).  With any gaming system it is all about the games and I am pleasantly surprised the amount of good looking games there are out there for the PS Vita (compared to the PSP).  There is Assassin’s Creed III ($39), Madden 13 ($25), or FIFA 13 ($39)

2012-ipodnano-product-initialWhile my son would love an iPod Touch ($299), I am not sure if any child needs to be online 24/7.  There is a great alternative in the new iPod Nano ($149), especially if the child you are shopping for is extremely active (or you want them to be more active).  The redesigned iPod nano now has a larger, 2.5-inch Multi-Touch display. It plays music and has Genius playlists and FM radio.  It has enough memories to watch watch movies and widescreen videos on the bigger screen. The iPod Nano tracks your steps, your runs, and burned calories and syncs to the Nike+ website to challenge friends. And with built-in Bluetooth technology, you can wirelessly connect to speakers, headphones, or car stereos.  While you are at it, you can add some amazing iHome rechargeable mini speakers as well.

If your child is a skateboarder, you may want to consider a Tony Hawk skateboard deck and kit.  I know what you are thinking, "What’s Tony Hawk a skater back when I was a kid?" and the answer is yes and somehow he is still skating and he is still pretty awesome… if you consider a 900 degree turn on a skateboard awesome.

If you teen is planning to do something awesome like that, you may want to get them a GoPro camera ($169) and a headstrap to record the madness/injury.

Sometimes the best technology and gifts are some of the most basic.  Binocular prices have dropped while the optics are still great.  A pair of compact Bushnell binoculars ($30) are perfect for a hike, some urban exploring, and compact enough to toss in a bag.  If taken care of, they will last a lifetime.

Canada at War: A Graphic History of World War II:  A visual look at Canada during World Ward II.

Canada at War follows the developments and setbacks, wins and losses, of a nation learning to stand up for itself in the midst of the most difficult war of the 20th century.

In graphic-novel format, fully illustrated and in full colour, Canada at War shows the growth of a nation’s army, navy and air force through movingly depicted triumphs and tragedies. From the disheartening losses at Dieppe and Hong Kong through the Battle of the Atlantic and the invasion of Sicily, it focuses on the human dimension of the key battles and decisions that ultimately swung the war in the Allies’ favour.

This poignant graphic account ends, after the victories of D-Day and Juno Beach and the liberation of Europe, with a final reckoning of the legacy these storied years have had on a country forged through war. Aimed at both adult and young adult readers, this very human history tells the stories behind some of this country’s most distinguishing military moments.

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestions made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

All I Can

JP Auclair Street Segment (from All.I.Can.) from Sherpas Cinema on Vimeo.

This came via @kr_wolfe in reply to this post. It’s a worthy rebuttal.

The Battle of the River Plate

One of my favourite movies of all time.  More on the Graf Spree can be found on Wikipedia.

Project: The Story of Saskatoon.

The other day DeeAnn Mercier and I were arguing about the hiking the food desert that she was a part of last year. I was talking about it being kind of pointless when Station 20 West was opening up when I realized how much people spend each check day to get to Safeway/Superstore/Wal-Mart in taxis which of course comes right out of the food budget. While Station 20 West will be a big part of the solution, it is still a long ways for people to get groceries. That lead to a discussion about some of the stats in the core neighbourhoods that we have heard over the last year and DeeAnn suggested visualizing some of those statistics into videos. The idea was appealing although relearning Flash (or more than likely Swish wasn’t appealing) As we brainstormed, debated, argued, and brainstormed some more we put together a framework that hopefully will tell the stories of what life is like for those below the poverty line in Saskatoon.

The plan is take look at a bunch of different urban issues that are affecting Saskatoon. Housing, drugs, crime, sex trade, income disparity, racism, urban design, food security, and even sports. Using video, we want to tell the story from the perspective of those struggling to get by but also what the City of Saskatoon, the Province of Saskatchewan, the Government of Canada, and service providers are doing about it. While the story of people struggling is told and the story of government initiatives are told, they are often told independently when in reality they are totally connected.

It’s also a chance to do a project like this correctly. Too often we have seen documentaries shot in Saskatoon that ignore the facts of the situation. They tell a sad story but miss the contributing factors, what others have done, and either ignore the bigger issues or place blame in the wrong places (sometimes on the individual, sometimes on the wrong part of the system).

It won’t be one episode but a series of 10-12 minute videos posted to our channels on YouTube and Vimeo with the goal of posting one a month. If you are interesting in joining our little project to explore and tell the stories of life in Saskatoon, why not contact us at jordon@collectiveimpact.ca or deeann@collectiveimpact.ca

You can find out more about our efforts at collectiveimpact.ca, follow us on Twitter (@TheCollectiveSK), YouTube (CollectiveImpactYXE) and Vimeo (CollectiveImpactYXE).  We’d love your help and feedback.

Why are movie revenues dropping?

Roger Ebert tries to explain.

Ticket prices are too high. People have always made that complaint, but historically the movies have been cheap compared to concerts, major league sports and restaurants. Not so much any longer. No matter what your opinion is about 3D, the charm of paying a hefty surcharge has worn off for the hypothetical family of four.

After parking, it costs Wendy, Mark, Oliver, and I about $75 to go to a movie with drinks and popcorn which brings about Ebert’s next point.

Refreshment prices. It’s an open secret that the actual cost of soft drinks and popcorn is very low. To justify their inflated prices, theaters serve portions that are grotesquely oversized, and no longer offer what used to be a "small popcorn." Today’s bucket of popcorn would feed a thoroughbred.

Of course there are his next two points.  Crappy theatre experience.

The theater experience. Moviegoers above 30 are weary of noisy fanboys and girls. The annoyance of talkers has been joined by the plague of cell-phone users, whose bright screens are a distraction. Worse, some texting addicts get mad when told they can’t use their cell phones.

Our at home experience has gotten a lot better.

Competition from other forms of delivery. Movies streaming over the internet are no longer a sci-fi fantasy. TV screens are growing larger and cheaper. Consumers are finding devices that easily play internet movies through TV sets. Netflix alone accounts for 30% of all internet traffic in the evening. That represents millions of moviegoers. They’re simply not in a theater.

Titanic II

Titanic IIOn Netflix the other night, Mark and I watched Titanic II which is probably the worst movie we have ever seen.  The story wasn`t horrible but the acting, CGI, cheap sets, cliched casting, and even the lighting was.  Yeah, you heard me, even the lighting was bad.

It was so bad, Mark was upset that I rated it, “I hated it“ on Netflix.  He was pushing for a worse rating.  I think he is hacking into Netflix now to see if he can ad a “the producers should be jailed” rating to the film.  Now in some ways, it is so bad that we watched part of it again.  There was several scenes in which they tried to show people panicking but they didn’t have enough extras on so they kept showing the same scene again and again and again.  That was gold.  The second time we just skimmed through the scenes to show the worse of them to Wendy.  There were a lot of bad scenes, including some CGI that looked like it was seriously done with Google Sketch Up.

If you watch it, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Jordonland: Established in 2011

There is a documentary on micronations by Jody ShapiroHere is the interview in Mother Jones.

MJ: In the film you say there are hundreds of micronations being formed, every year—what’s the average lifespan for these things?

JS: It’s a loose term right now. It fits from anywhere from a kid in a parent’s basement, declaring his own virtual community, to places like Hutt River—that’s been around for 40 years now. I think some places will last for years; others will fold down the minute their parents kick them out of their house or something like that.

I am totally on board with this.  I plan to separate from Canada in early 2012, right after the referendum in our house.

Update: Doh! Mark is planning to separate his room from our nation as well.  It’s called New Mark.  This is getting complicated.

Update 2: Wendy is planning a sovereignty association with the rest of the house.  Wendopia plans to come into existence in 2013.

Ahh forget it, the lawyer bills and the costs of my consulate office at the United Nations is killing me.

Vanity Fair tries to explain Mel Gibson

Apparently “total idiot” isn’t enough.

…one hot Los Angeles night in July 2006, Gibson, who has a history of drinking problems, was stopped for going 80-plus in a 45-m.p.h. zone on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. An open bottle of tequila was found in the car; his blood-alcohol level exceeded the legal limit. When arresting officer James Mee gave him not a script to read—an indulgence that is not uncommon in those parts—but a citation instead, Gibson said out of nowhere, “Fucking Jews … the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” And then he added, “Are you a Jew?” Even those who had withheld judgment when he released The Passion of the Christ cried “Aha!”

The reaction in Hollywood was swift. Sony head Amy Pascal, who had earlier refused to consider him for a role in the studio’s remake of All the King’s Men, now suggested an industry boycott, while Endeavor partner Ari Emanuel denounced Gibson in the Huffington Post, writing, “The entertainment industry cannot idly stand by and allow Mel Gibson to get away with such tragically inflammatory statements. … Now we know the truth. And no amount of publicist-approved contrition can paper it over.” Sidney Sheinberg, the former president of MCA, simply called Gibson a “putz.”

And that was only Act One. Four years later, having separated from his wife, Gibson became embroiled in a riveting, highly publicized battle with Oksana Grigorieva, a dark-haired, sloe-eyed Russian beauty, with lips fixed in a permanent do-me pout. This new scandal was a gift from, well, heaven for Gibson-bashers and voyeurs everywhere. She accused him of breaking her front teeth with a blow that glanced off her jaw and grazed the chin of their infant daughter, whom she was holding at the time. Even more damaging were audiotapes of Gibson roaring imprecations at her while panting and grunting like an animal, which were leaked to RadarOnline.com and released last July. Gibson is heard saying that Grigorieva deserved a “bat to the side of the head,” that if he wanted he could plant her “in a … rose garden,” and that “I am going to come and burn the fucking house down … but you will blow me first.” Castigating her for wearing provocative clothing, he also said, “You look like a fucking bitch in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of niggers, it will be your fault.” The blizzard of charges and countercharges that have buffeted him ever since have made him a fixture on the gossip sites.

So what caused it?  Alcohol.

In private, he has been remorseful. “He told me that when he drank this whole other character came out, and it was very self-destructive,” Dean Devlin recalls. “He said, ‘It’s not like I won those fights. I lost every one of them.’ It was behavior that he was not proud of. He confessed that there were these demons that he always fought, and he was doing everything he could to redeem himself.”

And a lot of anger.

If Gibson has largely succeeded in keeping his anger under wraps on movie sets, all too often it surfaced in interviews. It wasn’t only what he said but how he said it, the violence of his invective. He never just muttered, “I don’t like so-and-so,” or even “I hate so-and-so.” Once he got going, he quickly wandered into the valley of evisceration, dismemberment, and death. In 2003 he famously denounced New York Times columnist Frank Rich for scolding him about The Passion of the Christ, saying, “I want to kill him. I want his intestines on a stick. … I want to kill his dog.” Speaking about one of his unauthorized biographers, he once said, “I have to pray for the guy who did it so I don’t kill him. Because the motherfucker hasn’t got any balls. He’s a pussy and I hope I never meet him, because I’d tear his fucking face right off!”

Or his dad.

The truth is, nobody really seems to know what makes Gibson tick. But all roads lead back to Hutton Gibson. Donner observes, “Mel is a product of his father. We love our parents, they can do no wrong, and if they teach us lies, it begets a tremendous conflict in our lives. If you delve into that, you’ll learn a lot of things about him.” According to one source, Gibson and his father “both remember every single thing they ever read. Verbatim. The problem with that is that you don’t really have a filter, over what’s credible and what isn’t credible.”

No wonder Jimmie Johnson keeps winning and winning

Jimmie Johnson's Transformer 3 setup

Check out Jimmie Johnson’s 2011 NASCAR setup… actually its a promo shot for Transformers 3 but I like it a lot.  With Saskatoon’s traffic getting worse, this may help me get home from work a little faster.  Of course that last sentence was just a segue so I can link to The Gladiator, a 1986 movie about a vigilante and his Dodge Ram with a harpoon in the back of it that he uses to take out irresponsible drivers.  I don’t remember it that well but even Transformers 2 was better than it.

Randy Quaid has lost it

Randy Quaid and his wife Evi are on the run and living out of their Prius in Canada

People started noticing there was something seriously amiss with the Quaids about three years ago, when Randy left the Broadway-bound musical Lone Star Love and was then banned for life from the Actors’ Equity Association, the stage union, for physically and verbally abusing his fellow performers. Then came the arrests and the couple’s bizarre appearances at various court dates: They wore pink handcuffs. Evi carried Randy’s Golden Globe and had a "valid credit card" affixed to her forehead.

By the time they arrived in Canada, calling themselves "refugees" and claiming they were targets of an assassination plot, the Quaids had gone viral.

I asked them when they believed their troubles began. They said it was in Marfa, Texas, the rural artists’ community where Giant was shot. They said they had traveled there in the summer of 2009 to "look at ranches and stuff" and erect a "Randy Quaid museum." (They’d been fixing up a building in the middle of town-reportedly without the proper permits.)

Already, Evi said, "something really weird had started happening with Randy’s mail. His royalty and residual checks weren’t coming. We were really, truly panicked." Adding to their unrest was the recent demise of the actor David Carradine, a friend of Randy’s whose death from apparent auto-erotic asphyxiation in Thailand the Quaids believed to be suspicious.

"They" — the aforementioned Hollywood Star Whackers — "decide, O.K., if we knock off David, then what we can do is simply collect the insurance covering his participation in the television show he was working on overseas," Evi said. "It’s almost moronic, it’s so simple."

She said she also suspected Jeremy Piven’s falling ill from mercury poisoning was another sign of a dastardly plot by the Broadway producers of Speed-the-Plow to collect insurance money. "It was an orchestrated hit," she said. "They could have put mescaline in his water bottle." Jeffrey Richards, one of the producers of the play, declined to comment.

It’s kind of sad.  This gets the attention because of Quaid’s body of work and notoriety.  For many people it just happens and they end up on the street, confused and lost. via

Hollywood (Saskatchewan)

I am not sure how many of you watch the SCN but every once in a while they show some great programming.  Lately I have been enjoying Hollywood (Saskatchewan), a look at the Saskatchewan television and film industry (video clip).  While I am on the topic, since the SCN has been purchased by new owners, there seems to be a plethora of new Saskatchewan programming which is good for both the viewer and the producer.  Hopefully this new trend can continue to make it’s owners, producers, and the entire industry some more money.