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    Movies: Trick 'r Treat

    One of the most talked about films this Hallowe'en season has been Trick 'r Treat, a horror film following four separate plots which link together in interesting ways.

    The film was originally slated for an October 2007 release, but was pushed back.  It was only just release this year in October.  It might be that the film isn't as marketable as other horror films.  It doesn't have a killer that young teens or twenty somethings are trying to escape, and it doesn't follow the recent trend of torture horror that seems very popular.  It also doesn't have a lot of star power behind it, with Anna Paquin being the most well known actor in the film.  Whatever the reason, it may actually benefit from not having a theatrical release.

    I think the film is best viewed with a group of friends in the comfort of your own home.  People will want to chat with each other about a particular story, or pause and rewind certain scenes, and just have a good time without being stuck in a theatre seat.

    If you're looking for a fun horror film, that keeps you laughing and takes your on a wild ride, check out Trick 'r Treat.  I give it 4 / 5.



    Review: Where the Wild Things Are

    I was lucky enough to win tickets to see Where the Wild Things Are this morning.  For those unfamiliar, Where the Wild Things Are is based on the children's book of the same name by Maurice Sendak.  I had heard of the book, but I hadn't read it to my recollection.

    (Obligatory Spoiler Warning)

    My first exposure to the film came with the announcement that Spike Jones would be attached to direct.  Since Being John Malkovich and Adaptation are two films that left me unsatisfied, the fact that Spike Jones was attached to direct didn't convince me that the film would be any good.  I was still intrigued enough to see what he was going to do with the story.  I was impressed when I heard that Spike Jones felt it was very important the Wild Things feel real, so constructing giant costumes for actors to where was the approach he took, rather than going fully CG with the Wild Things.  I had also heard that the films creators kept in contact with Sendak about aspects of the film, which I'm guessing they did because otherwise there really wouldn't be a lot of source material for the filmmakers to work with.

    As mentioned earlier, I don't remember ever reading the book, so during the film festival, when I had a lot of time to wait between films, I took the opportunity to read this book.

    It didn't take long.

    The book is only a few pages long, with only a few lines of text, and you can probably read it in a couple minutes.  The drawings depict a scary boy, and not so scary monsters.  But I understood the basic story: mischievous boy gets tired of the real world, travels across the sea and becomes rulers of monsters in a far away land, gets bored, and comes back home.  Unlike with the Lord of the Rings trilogy adaptations, Spike Jones would likely have no trouble fitting everything in the book into the film, and he could likely do it in under twenty minutes.

    The film definitely expands on a lot more than what was in the book.  Max is frustrated that his family is changing - his older sister is paying less attention to him, and his mother is dating - and he has no control over these changes.  He also does not realize the consequences of some of his actions, and doesn't take responsibility for the bad things he might do when acting up.  In one scene, he starts a snowball fight with his sister's friend, but when the fight is reciprocated - with all participants initially smiling - he gets upset once his snow fort is damaged.  He doesn't realize that instigating the snowball fight had consequences, including the potential damaging of his fort.  (Note: My parents always told me not to build tunnels in snowplowed snow.  You could get buried if the plow comes along again, or if the tunnel collapses.  This film proves them right.)  He reacts to this by entering his sister's room and causing damage.  In a very important scene, Max bites his mother while acting up, and as he's being yelled at, he says, "it's not my fault," meaning that he doesn't quite get that even though he's acting out because of the changes around him, he's still accountable for his actions.

    Something to note for fans of the book: His journey across the ocean is well done, but apparently you can cut scenes from a short book.  The scene with the sea monster is notably absent from the film.

    After running away from his family, and crossing a huge body of water, Max winds up back on land with a bunch of Wild Things.  The Wild Things are wonderfully crafted, with detailed bodies that make them feel real, and CG faces done so well that I didn't even realize that they were CG.  The Wild Things are easily the highlight of the film.

    On the land of the Wild Things (or, "Where the Wild Things Are"), Max tricks them into thinking he is a king, and starts ruling over them, giving them command to "have a wild rumpous", build a fort, and have a "mud clod" fight.  The scenes are well shot, and the visuals are decent, but pacing is a bit slow, and I could have seen most scenes tightened up, just a bit.

    The Wild Things represent some of the aspects of Max's life, in particular with the character of "Carol", voiced wonderfully by Tony Soprano... I mean, James Gandolfini, who's having similar frustrations with changes happening in their world.  He's found destroying the Wild Thing's homes, just because he's frustrated that his friend, KW, has expressed intentions to leave, since she's hanging out with some new friends.  This is quite similar to the situation where Max's sister is paying less attention to Max now that she has some new friends, and Max damaged her room.

    During the mud clod fight, everyone is having a good time, until people start getting hurt.  And then the only people getting upset ARE the ones getting hurt.  This is very similar to the scene with the snowball fight earlier in the film, where Max started the fight, but once his fort was destroyed, he wasn't having fun anymore.

    Eventually, Max decides to go home, and leaves the Wild Things with a tearful farewell.  He reunites with his mother, hopefully realizing from his interactions with the Wild Things that maybe how he's handling change can hurt the people he loves, and his has to be accountable for his own actions.

    I thought that it had some good visuals, and some great character interactions, and beautifully created creatures in the Wild Things.  I do think it was about 30 minutes too long for a "family film", and I'm not entirely sure how kids liked it.

    In my theatre, there were a lot of children with their parents, and it was hard to get a read on them.  I could see them potentially bored with the pacing of the film, but hoped that the look of the Wild Things would keep them interested.  I thought it possible that the messages in the film might be missed on them, unless their parents did their job and talked with the kids about the messages presented after the film.

    Two out of the people I saw this film with did not like the film very much.  The style, story, and other aspects of the film did not appeal to them.  I did enjoy the film, even though I think it could have been shorter, with certain scenes edited a little tighter.

    If you enjoy big puppet-like monsters, and are looking for an escape from the real world, for just a bit, to let your inner monster out, you might enjoy this film too.

    I'd give it 3.5 / 5.



    TIFF '09 Schedule

    It's yet another year for the film festival, and I'm planning on seeing at least 12 films.  Find below the films I'm planning to see and at what times:

    Give me a shout if you're going to be at any of these!