Order of the Phoenix — the review’s up!

My review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is now up at CT Movies. FWIW, I saw the film on Friday afternoon, went to bed very early that night because I was sick, left with my family for Nimpo Lake on Saturday morning, and then wrote the review on Sunday in a cabin besieged by mosquitoes — all while hoping the neighbours really did have the internet connection that I had been told they would have. Not the most ideal of conditions.

Why so little blogging these days?

Because I’m on a week-long trip through the B.C. interior with the wife and kids, trying out our brand new mini-van. And let the record show that the first movie we popped into our mini-van’s DVD player, to keep the kids distracted last Saturday, was Godspell (1973). I think parts of it were a bit scary for them, though. They liked Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood better.

Simpsons to target religion, environmentalists

Reuters reports:

The upcoming Simpsons movie takes a typically irreverent dig at religion and environmentalists, and features a nude scene involving ‘toon teen Bart that had the audience at a preview show applauding.

A 10-minute clip from “The Simpsons Movie,” the first time Homer, Marge, their family and friends have made it to the big screen, was shown in London late on Wednesday ahead of its release worldwide later in July.

The clip offered several clues as to the plot, suggesting that the environment and religion would [be] major themes. . . .

The original Reuters story has a few more details. All I can say is I hope this movie isn’t like one of those preachy Lisa episodes.

I have been to the Canadian Kwik-E-Mart.

To promote The Simpsons Movie, 20th Century Fox and 7-Eleven have changed 12 of the latter company’s convenience stores into Kwik-E-Marts. One of those stores just happens to be in Canada. And the Canadian store just happens to be in nearby Coquitlam. And a friend of mine just happened to work a few shifts in that store during the winter of ’88-’89 — after the Simpsons debuted on The Tracey Ullman Show in ’87, but before they launched their own half-hour series with a Christmas special in ’89. (Yes, the show is really that old.) So naturally, he and I had to go check it out.

Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

And click here for a set of photos that we took to commemorate our trip — indeed, our pilgrimage — to the Kwik-E-Mart.

License to Wed — the review’s up!

My review of License to Wed is now up at CT Movies.

The Great Borscht Kidnapping (1989)

One of these days, I will get my old videotapes out of storage and post some of my old student films online — not because they’re anything to write home about, but just because it would be handy to have them out there. In the meantime, I recently got back in touch with an old friend of mine who starred in The Great Borscht Kidnapping, a video that I shot back in November 1989 for my introduction-to-film class at UBC. My friend asked if I was going to post this film online, and I said I couldn’t at the moment, but he still had a copy handy, so he posted it instead. And here it is:

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Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

I sure hope my copy hasn’t deteriorated as much as this one has; then again, the film is supposed to be a sort of silent movie, so perhaps all the signs of age just add to the pseudo-antique charm.

Some of the gags in this film didn’t work out anywhere near as well as I wanted them to, and there are some continuity problems with the lighting near the end because we didn’t have time to go back for another day’s shoot. But I think it’s okay for a video made by a bunch of teenagers running around in the pre-digital age.

Two things I definitely learned from making this film:

You have to be really economical with your dialogue when you’re making a silent movie. My professor did not permit the use of synchronous sound in our videos, and this forced me to focus on the structure of the screenplay, rather than on the dialogue, and to communicate as much as I could through the visuals.

That said, music can really make a film. I remember sitting in my parents’ living room and watching my friend Jason improvise the score on my mother’s piano as he watched the video. I was in awe then, and I am in awe now. I wish I had that kind of skill, and I simply cannot imagine this film without Jason’s contribution. If I ever had a sense of how the film would sound, before I actually made it, it has been completely supplanted by Jason’s music.

Two further points:

Yes, that is my sister Monica playing Anna. Some of her outtakes are very, very funny, and yes, that footage is also in storage.

Plus, any resemblance between this movie’s characters and my own mixed roots — as a half-Mennonite, half-British kid born and raised on a continent of cowboys — is not exactly coincidental.