All posts for the month December, 2012

Hats off to McHattie!

Published December 30, 2012 by vfdpixie


I felt it only fitting to make my first entry into my Love Letters category about Mr. Stephen McHattie, one of Canada’s hardest working actors.

It all started one late night a few years ago.  I was up with my darling sister channel surfing, and we happened upon a sequel to Rosemary’s Baby, which is my all time favorite movie, Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby.  Indeed!  This 1976 made for T.V. movie starred a young, handsome Stephen McHattie as Satan’s son Adrian, all grown up and torn between his devil and human sides.  Shlocky and groovy, I was immediately taken with this piece of horror cheese, and was determined to own a copy.  It would take some diligent searching, but after a few months, I tracked one down on Ebay.  During my search, I was delighted to find that Mr. McHattie was a Canuck!  And the amount of indie horror and sci-fi films he was in made me like him even more!  It made me think that he loves what he does, and although he has done gripping serious roles (Life with Billy), he also has a sense of humour.  He has also been nominated for Gemini and Genie awards several times, and took home one of each in 1995 and 2007 respectively.

    romulan mchattie  angry mchattie  young mchattie

Mr. McHattie has one of those faces that you recognize from a million things he’s been in.  He is a chameleon and I feel like I’ve only seen a fraction of what this versatile actor has done.  From Broadway to big budget blockbusters like 300, and made for T.V. gems like Red, he continues to pop up, adding much-needed originality and natural grit to his roles.  I even sat through most of that stinker Exit Humanity because of him.  I thought he was the best thing in that film with his devil-may-care delivery.  He was definitely a prince among thieves (of my time) that night.

I almost met him too.  If I remember correctly, it was when Pontypool debuted at TIFF 2009.  He happened to walk through a department store that I worked in at the time and I saw him ask another salesperson for directions.  I so wanted to say hello, but I was swamped with rabid ladies desperate for a touch of lippy and lashes.  And so I watched as my chance to shake his celebrity hand ascended the escalators to a shopping no man’s land.  Sigh!  Such regret.  I wished I had shoved those ladies aside since I hated that job anyway, and gone after him, but then they would have called security.  It’s not like I fantasized about being his neighbour and trading recipes over our backyard fence and having barbeques and getting free tickets to his premieres and stuff.  Not at all!  Because that would be weird.

Hollywood has been good to him, probably because he is talented and tenacious, has a good agent, and I suspect because he is a good guy.  I mean, he is from the East Coast where the friendliest Canadians I’ve met hail from.  Anyway, I just felt compelled to give props, a shout out, or whatever the kids are saying these days, to Stephen McHattie.  He is an amazing Canadian talent.  I feel he is on par with Donald Sutherland (whom I also love-I mean, Don’t Look Now?!!!  Creepy classic!) and I’m waiting for his induction into Canada’s Walk of Fame.  What the heck are they waiting for?!!

Masters of Horror’s Creepy Call Girl

Published December 28, 2012 by vfdpixie


Imprint (2006,  1 hr 3 mins)

I love Takashi Miike. He is behind Audition, one of the most disturbing horror films out there, so I was excited to see the Masters of Horror episode he directed called Imprint.  The story takes place in the mid 19th century where Christopher (Billy Drago), arrives at an island whorehouse looking for his long-lost love.  Instead he finds a disfigured prostitute (Youki Kudoh), who knows the fate of his love Kimomo (Michie).  This storytelling prostitute has no name, but what she does have is a disturbing history that leads her to the “yukaku” where Kimomo befriends her.  The prostitute tells of her betrayal to Kimomo and her weird “Total Recall” secret, which will haunt Christopher forever.

This film was bizarre, twisted, and in true Miike style, made me wince.  Several times.  He gives us a torture scene that is on par with the gruesome needle scene in Audition.  I found Billy Drago’s performance to be a bit heavy-handed and melodramatic, but overall it was an interesting watch.  The sets and costumes were really unique, and if you watch the extras, you’ll find that they are intentionally stylized to be somewhat fantastical.  And yes, check out the extras.  They are jam-packed with interesting tidbits about this production, for instance, most of the Japanese actors learned the english script phonetically since they did not speak English.  And they did pretty well.  Another cool fact is that the movie was adapted from the book Bokkei Kyotei by Shimako Iwai who also played the sadist in charge of the unforgettable torture.

I would buy this dvd for the documentary on Miike alone.  He is fascinating and loves what he does.  He comes off as very open-minded and he just wants to have fun.  Directing gut wrenching torture and weird sexual perversions.  And as long as his crew is happy and has a good time at work, who can find fault?  Aside from most U.S. and European censors, that is…

Most Memorable Line:  Two jail guards give Christopher a pitying look as he lays crumpled on his jail cell floor and one says “Jesus, get a whiff of that guy!”  I only like the line because the actors didn’t speak a lick of english, and yet they nail it, even through their heavy accents.

Favourite Scene:  I am not a nutjob, but the torture scene is burned in my memory.  I’m still wondering where Miike got the um, inspiration for the torture and I’m floored by Shimako Iwai’s performance as the “torturer woman”.  To know that this conservative looking writer pulled out all the stops and says she enjoyed the role shows that we all have a little, or a lot, of crazy just waiting to be released.  I also liked the secret reveal with the nameless prostitute.  I laughed but it creeped me out.  Um, miss,…is that a flower in your hair?  Oh Miike-san, you so crazy!!

The author, Shimako Iwai, playing her part with gusto

The author, Shimako Iwai, playing her part with gusto

Mommy, Santa smells funny…

Published December 24, 2012 by vfdpixie


Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010 1hr 24 mins)

As we prepare for Christmas, with eggnog, presents, The Sound of Music (which I love), and a lovely Christmas tree, some of us forget the scary, age-old traditions and lore of this popular holiday.  In the Victorian era, telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve was common practice, and Christmas itself is rife with watered down pagan traditions of Yule and the Winter Solstice, as well as the many versions of Santa Claus.

One of these versions comes to us in Rare Exports:  A Christmas Tale.  The director, Jalmari Helander, expanded two incredibly popular short films he created in 2003 and 2005 that were originally gifts for clients.  This is my new Christmas fave, and I hope he comes out with more material soon, because this movie is pretty brilliant.  A word of warning:  if you plan on seeing this movie, please don’t watch the shorts beforehand.  They are huge spoilers to the feature film.

In rural Lapland, a hunter Rauno (Jorma Tommila) and his son Pietari (Onni Tommila), prepare for 2 things:   Christmas and the big round-up.  Each event has its problems.  Christmas is not exactly joyous for the duo as Pietari’s mother is no longer with them, and also because Pietari does his research and finds out Santa isn’t as nice as everyone thinks.  The big round-up has a lot riding on it as the local hunters need to capture as many reindeer as they can to make money from the meat.  This is their main source of income for the winter months.  Only problem is a mysterious excavation of the nearby mountain may have disrupted the amount of reindeer expected.  And Pietari thinks it has also unleashed that not-so-nice Santa.  He feels responsible because earlier, he and his friend cut a hole in a fence to the site so they could watch the workers blow up the mountain.  He is certain that nasty Santa came through and will terrorize the village.

When the hunters find a mass slaughter of reindeer, they blame the excavation for the hole in the fence and wolves for the slaughter, and head up the mountain to bust some heads.  What they find is an abandoned site, which leads to a series of bizarre events, started by Pietari’s father discovering a naked, filthy, blood-thirsty Santa-like man who is appeased by gingerbread and the smell of children. What they soon find is that Santa has some naked, nasty friends that start taking the village’s children and, um, heating implements.  Pietari feels terribly guilty and wants to put things right.  This kid is a mini Finnish Bruce Willis.  He dons his gay apparel of hockey helmet and padding, and his cherubic face is grimly set as he battles the Christmas baddies.  And the trio of hunters who want payback are pretty bad ass too, in a bumbling hilarious kind of way.  I can’t tell you anymore because it will give too much away.  I’ll only say that it reminds me of all the Brothers Grimm fairy tales and it focuses on the Finnish legend of Joulupikki.   I love that the setting is in Lapland, where the original Santa’s Village is located, and we get a taste of the O.G. Santa!  You must watch this film because it is, to me, the best action/horror/comedy Christmas movie I have seen in a long time.  Actually, I think it’s the only action/horror/comedy Christmas movie I have seen of its kind!

Have a Merry, Scary Christmas!!

Most Memorable Line:  When the excavation crew hot-foot it off the mountain, the foreman screams into his walkie “Don’t you understand, the “cargo” still has a pulse!”

Most Memorable Scene:  It’s actually the last set of scenes, but I can’t tell you about them.  My close second shows Pietari stapling the door to December 24th shut on his advent calendar.  Just making sure that Christmas doesn’t come and that bloodthirsty Santa doesn’t make it in. (This is also a clever clue to some later action!)

I Heart The Hobbit

Published December 17, 2012 by vfdpixie


The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey (2012, 2 hrs 49 mins)

Once upon a time in the village of Bloor West, when I was a wee pixie, I picked up a book called The Hobbit.  I read and I read, unable to put the book down, and also because my parents never let me do anything fun.  Fast forward to today, and this pixie went to see the movie adaptation, The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey.  I’ve got to say that I loved it!  It was action packed and really funny.

A young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is recruited by Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to help the heir to the Dwarf throne, Thorin (Richard Armitage), regain his kingdom.  Who’s got it?  Smaug,  a gold loving dragon who got a whiff of the former Dwarf King’s significant horde of gold and took over.  It was nice to see new and old characters throw down in Middle Earth.  Hugo Weaving and the stunning Cate Blanchett as Elven royalty were amazing as usual, but I am biased.  I’ve loved Hugo Weaving ever since his earlier work in Proof and The Matrix.

This pixie likes a monster, and there were plenty.  From giant rock monsters to giant Orc wolves and goblins (with herpes), I definitely got my fill.  We also get our intro to Gollum (Andy Serkis) and the ring, and we see our Hobbit surprise us with his courage as he endures some epic fights with orcs and goblins.

Martin Freeman is just perfect as Bilbo.  I fell for his adorable face when I first encountered him on The Office.  His performance will inspire nerds everywhere to do something courageous.  Actually, all the Dwarf-portraying actors gave great performances.  Richard Armitage as the Dwarf King heir managed to enchant my friend as she whispered to me, “That Dwarf King is so sexy”.  See?  Short guys do have game!

Quite honestly, old age has affected my pixie brain, and I only remember snippets of the book, but I have faith in director Peter Jackson.  He has made a thoroughly entertaining film, and I can’t wait until the next installment in the series.  One thing I was not happy with was the reported deaths of some animals during production.  There is controversy about the number of animals, and whether or not the source of the information is reliable, but the allegations are disturbing nonetheless.  I just hope this will bring safer conditions for animals to film sets in the future.

Most Memorable Line:  When the most articulate Goblin King I have ever seen (actually, the only Goblin King I have ever seen) decides to pummel the captured Dwarves, he shouts, “Bring up the mangler!  Bring up the bone crusher!”  Appropriate in this instance, but maybe not at your next board meeting.

Favourite Scene:  A tie between the Dwarves and Bilbo getting caught in the middle of  a mountain/rock monster scrap and the gang lighting pine cones and using them as fiery bombs as they fight the Orcs.

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