February 2011 Archives

Fish Tank Criterion Collection DVD Review: The Struggle to Escape Family Traditions

Andrea Arnold is at the top of her game with this film.
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After viewing the Criterion Collection edition of Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank (2009), I cannot imagine a better title for the film. The story of a 15-year-old girl's life in the council flats of Essex is often heartbreaking, yet nothing seems to phase Mia (Katie Jarvis). Living in the fish bowl of her life seems to suit her just fine. The steady stream of rejection she has been subjected to over the years has steeled her towards anything, or so she thinks. We are introduced to Mia, her foul-mouthed younger sister Tyler (Rebecca Griffiths) and their party girl/single mother Joanne (Kierston

Fish Tank Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Andrea Arnold Primer

Worthwhile for its lead performances and continuing improvement of Arnold, but difficult to recommend as essential viewing.
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British writer/director Andrea Arnold won the 2009 Cannes Jury Prize and 2010 BAFTA (Outstanding British Film) for this gritty coming-of-age drama, following up her same Cannes honors in 2006 for her only previous feature film, Red Road. She also landed an Oscar in 2005 for her short film Wasp, which travels some of the same thematic ground as Fish Tank. So clearly she has the attention of critics, but this new Criterion release is her best opportunity to date for any meaningful US viewership. Thankfully, the package functions as something of an Arnold primer, including not only the feature film

Kings of Pastry DVD Review: A Remarkably Stimulating Documentary

Each time in the kitchen feels like a life or death adventure.
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First, wrap your head around being in a kitchen for three days time, with an extensive list of criteria on what to bake. Then film the comeptition for audiences to get a taste of the inimate trials that France's highest pastry chefs must go through. It may not sound interesting, but it is. The Kings of Pastry is a remarkably stimulating documentary that examines the determination and gravity of what it takes to win top honors in your particular field, without sugarcoating the details. Filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker have worked together on documentaries since the seventies. Being in

Amarcord Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Parade of Unforgettable Characters

An ode to Fellini's childhood in a quaint Italian town in the 1930s.
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Federico Fellini's films are widely perceived as an acquired taste, with their odd flights of fancy, peculiar characters and avoidance of normal narrative structure. As such, they can be a daunting proposition for even the snobbiest of viewers, but I opted to take the plunge with this Oscar-winning later work in his filmography thanks to Criterion's stunning new Blu-ray release. Although Fellini reportedly offered conflicting accounts of its origin and basis in fact, Amarcord is evidently an ode to his own childhood in a quaint Italian town in the 1930s. Rather than follow one character however, the film presents

2 Weeks In Another Town DVD Review: Another Look at Hollywood's Bad And Beautiful

An entertaining film about the behind-the-camera life.
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2 Weeks In Another Town reunites director Vincent Minnelli, producer John Houseman, screenwriter Charles Schnee and actor Kirk Douglas for another inside look at Hollywood from a not-so-glamorous point of view. Ten years earlier in 1952, they teamed up to make the great The Bad And The Beautiful, a story about the relationships between producers, directors, cast and stars. Both tales can be seen as modeled after various captains and big shots of Hollywood in those golden days of movie making. Which ones are really up to the viewer to decide. 2 Weeks takes place in Rome and stars Douglas

Still Walking Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Hirokazu Kore-eda's Most Personal Film

An emotional punch that extends far beyond the actions occurring in the film.
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In the aftermath of his own mother's death, director Hirokazu Kore-eda crafted his most personal film to date, a quiet meditation on family dynamics. There's virtually no plot, just an examination of the simple nuances and evolving relationships at play in the structure of an average Japanese family. Instead of grand statements, the film speaks volumes through seemingly minor and wordless occurrences such as cooking rituals, walks in the neighborhood, or children attempting to reach lofty tree blossoms. These carefully selected touches give the film an incredibly strong sense of realism and clearly acted as a form of catharsis for
For those who want to see or revisit this year's Academy Award Best Picture nominees on the big screen, AMC is offering the opportunity with a single 24-hour marathon on Saturday, February 26th for hardcore movie-goers. Passes cost $50 and come with a $20 AMC Gift Card, resulting in a value of $3 a movie. The schedule is: 10:00 a.m. Toy Story 3 9:45 p.m. Winter's Bone 12:00 p.m. 127 Hours 11:45 p.m. Black Swan 2:00 p.m. The Kids are All Right 2:00 a.m. Inception 4:15 p.m. True Grit (2010) 4:45 a.m. The Social Network 7:15 p.m. The Fighter 7:05

The Snob Seven: Love Stories

A few favorite films that look at love and relationships.
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Whether you celebrate St Valentine's or not, here are a few favorite films that look at love and relationships: City Lights (1931) Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp falls in love with a blind, flower-shop worker (Virginia Cherrill). She thinks he's rich and he doesn't dissuade her of that notion. He endeavors to raise money for an operation to restore her sight. Admittedly, the Tramp's love is superficial, based purely on the blind girl's looks, but the emotion of the scene when she realizes that this Tramp is her savior overwhelms me so much, I have been know to get choked up

You Again Blu-ray Review: Actions Have Consequences

A good message, but not well executed.
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I have often wondered why women are not as supportive of each other as they could be. We should be each other's strongest allies and always have our best interests at heart. More often than not, that is not the case. Women can be mean and competitive and usually it is directed at other women. You Again attempts to address these issues in a light-hearted and comical manner. While I appreciate examine this important subject matter, the movie fails due to a lack of focus, weak storylines, and a waste of the talented actresses doing the best they can with

Contest: Win a DVD of Unstoppable (2010) starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine

Two lucky readers have a chance to climb aboard and win.
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Coming to Blu-ray and DVD on February 15th, Unstoppable finds director Tony Scott paired with actor Denzel Washington for their fifth movie and the second involving trains after 2009's The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. Chris Pine co-stars as young rookie Will Colson opposite Washington's wily veteran Fred Barnes. The two must work together to deal with a runaway train. The story is based on the real-life event known as the CSX 8888 incident, which occured in Ohio on May 15, 2001. Cinema Sentries and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment are working together to bring two readers a

Still Walking Criterion Collection DVD Review: A Masterpiece of Japanese Cinema

Director Hirokazu Kore-eda's sixth film is a modern classic.
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Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda's Still Walking (2008) has just been issued as part of The Criterion Collection, and is a magnificent piece of work. Kore-eda not only directed the film, but wrote and edited it as well. What he delivered is a beautiful, and often bittersweet study of family - one which rings true no matter what your nationality is. Except for a brief coda which fast-forwards about ten years, Still Walking takes place over the course of a one-day family reunion. The event is held on a hot summer day, commemorating the death of eldest son Junpei Yokoyama twelve

The Snob Seven: Favorite Feature Film Debuts

Do you remember their first time?
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Fresh off the debut of our new home and with the debut of the new feature The Snob Seven, "Favorite Feature Film Debuts" seemed the perfect topic to kick things off. In chronological order, mine are: The Cocoanuts (1929) The Four Marx Brothers first brought their comic anarchy to the silver screen in this adaptation of their hit Broadway show. The brothers are set loose upon the Florida land boom in the '20s lookng to make money by hook or by crook. One of the funniest moments is the "Why a Duck?" scene as Groucho tries to enlist Chico in

Conviction (2010) DVD Review: The True Story of a Sister's Love and Sacrifice

People will do extraordinary things when faced with extreme challenges.
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There is not a love that runs deeper or a bond stronger than that shared by family. On the surface, Tony Goldwyn's film Conviction is about bringing a wrongly convicted man to justice but at its core it convincingly challenges the unwavering love between brother and sister and what one would do for family. Conviction is based on the true story of Betty Ann Waters and her 18-year struggle to get her brother, Kenneth Waters, out of prison after he was wrongly accused of murder. Expertly portrayed by Hilary Swank (Betty) and Sam Rockwell (Kenny), the film aggressively captures the

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