Recently in Pick of the Week

Pioneers of African-American Cinema is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a huge collection of African-American films, several revenge style flicks, Pocahontas. and much more.
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I consider myself an amateur cinephile. By which I mean I take films seriously - I watch with a critical eye, I attempt to understand the artistry and craftsmanship of cinema, and I do my best to dig into the history of the medium. But I also have a life, a job, a family, and not nearly the time I need to dedicate myself full-time to watching movies. This means there are large gaps in both genre and history of movies that I’ve never seen. There is a very long list of movies I really ought to watch before I

O.J.: Made In America is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us O.J., Elvis meeting Nixon, three films from Criterion, and much more.
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In the summer of 1994, I was 18, had just graduated high school, and was doing my best to have "The Best Summer Ever" while college loomed just over my shoulder. I was looking forward to that experience, but I had signed on to University in Alabama - a good 800 miles away from my home in Oklahoma - so I was a little nervous about leaving everything I knew for something new. At the same time, the entire world became obsessed with a football player turned actor and the lurid murder of his wife and her friend. Somehow, I

Green Room is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a green room, a carnival of souls, passionate crimes and much more.
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Last week I wrote about buying a house and noted that we would be moving in on Tuesday. We did exactly that and then moved right back out. The very evening we moved in the wife and I both took showers. Upon exiting, I noted that the tub was very slow to drain. An hour or so later my wife asked me if I had made a mess getting out of the tub as the towel I had put down was sopping wet. Further investigation noted large amounts of water filling in around the toilet. Our lines were clogged and

Blood and Black Lace is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us some Italian horror, Studio Ghibli animation, a '90s indie, some sorority babes, and much more.
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The wife and I recently bought a house. It's the first time we’ve ever done that. We talked about it for years but had never been stable enough in our jobs or location that we felt it was possible. When we moved back to my hometown a couple of years ago, we started talking about it seriously. A little over a year ago we started looking. Got pre-approved from the bank, connected with a realtor, and visited every house within our price range within a 50-mile radius. Turns out it's really quite difficult to choose a place that you are

Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a nuclear comedy, killer tomatoes, a special effects wizard and much more.
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If you’ve watched a movie with any sort of special-effects-laden creature in the last century, you’ve watched a film influenced by Ray Harryhausen. Inspired by watching King Kong (1933), Harryhausen went on to pioneer the use of stop motion effects and created what he called Dynamation in which he super imposed his stop-motion effects onto a previously shot scene, enabling real life actors to interact with his puppets. His films often fall into the science-fiction/fantasy gutter of the 1960s era, and I’ve honestly not seen the majority of them, but just seeing clips of those effects is jaw-dropping. Knowing that

Knight of Cups is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a bunch of Shakespearean adaptations, a fun-looking sci-fi thriller, a Norwegian disaster flick, and the award for worst titled film to ever get my pick.
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I hope someone was fired over this. Knight of Cups is a terrible name for a film. Terrence Malick has a difficult enough time selling his films to an audience in the first place so there is no need to give it the worst title possible. I mean, I’m rooting for the guy. I’ve loved the films of his that I’ve seen and I want him to make many more, but even I totally cringed at this title and stayed away from it in the theatre. It doesn’t help that his movies are becoming more and more experimental. Knight of

The X-Files: Event Series is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us new X-Files, a couple of sequels, a couple of Criterions, a young Jesus, and much more.
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For one reason or another, I never got into The X-Files when it first ran. Truth be known, I’m not even sure how aware I was of its existence. Surely I’d seen some adverts for it, but I didn’t know anybody who watched it and it just wasn’t part of my cultural consciousness. Late in my college career, this would be around 1997-98, some friends dropped in for a weekend and they were fans so we watched that week’s episode. I was not impressed. The effects looked cheap, the monsters were silly, and I was completely lost in terms of

Hail, Caesar! is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us the Coen Brothers playing with old Hollywood, U2 performing live in Paris, Michael Bay exploding things in Benghazi, and more.
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The Coen Brothers last took on Hollywood in 1991 with Barton Fink. That movie was a dark, cynical, symbolic look at the motion-picture business (and a whole lot of other things) that was rather relentless in its black comedy. Their newest Hail, Caesar! is a much breezier, lighter (if no less brilliant) affair that indicates, perhaps, a brighter view of Hollywood. Or maybe it's just the Coens being zany again. The plot (what little there is) follows Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) as he oversees various projects for Capitol Pictures and mostly “fixes” a multitude of problems created by the stars

Wim Wenders: The Road Trilogy is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us three films from Wim Wenders, a human tornado, a city of women, a blood bath and much more.
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I’ve seen exactly one Wim Wenders film (Until the End of the World - I think - or it could have been Faraway, So Close. It was definitely a U2 song title, and I don’t remember any angels so I’m pretty sure it was Until the End of the World). Obviously, I don’t remember much of the film, but I do remember not liking it. Or rather I liked the first part of the film, which felt like (and had the run time of) a full movie, but then it just kept going and became a different film entirely. By

Killer Dames: Two Gothic Chillers is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a couple of Italian horrors, Jesus, a midwife, and Scott Baio using magic to look up girls skirts.
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I have somewhat eclectic cinematic tastes. I’m just as thrilled to see classic American films like Casablanca or To Kill a Mockingbird as I am modern blockbusters such as the Marvel movies or the new Star Wars. I can sit contemplatively through even the densest Bergman or Godard arthouse films and fist pump at creative kills in an '80s slasher flick or the sadomasochistic weirdness that is Takashi Miike movies. As such, I am perpetually feeling guilty about not watching one sort of film or another. If I start watching a bunch of big budget, smashy-smashy, exploding movies, then I

The Witch is the Pick of the Week

This week bring us an acclaimed horror, some women in prison, a dirty grandpa and much more.
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Last Friday was the 13th of May, my brother’s birthday, but more importantly a traditional day of horror. Normally, I’d watch the slasher series with the hockey-masked killer, but my family was having none of that. Instead, we watched one of the newest incarnations of Scooby-Doo (which strangely features a lot of heart-throbbing between the characters - yuck,) an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and part of The Mummy Returns. There wasn’t enough gore-filled stabbing in either of those for my taste, but one has to deal with all sorts of compromises when one has a family. What this

Deadpool is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us an R-rated superhero, a classic Bogart, a miniseries take on Tolstoy, and much more.
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For the foreseeable future, it is a blockbuster world and we’re just living in it. Marvel has been churning out massive, gigantic, skyscraper busting mega-hits since 2008 and they show no sign of slowing down anytime soon. With the huge success of The Force Awakens, the Star Wars universe will be joining in with at least a couple of lightsaber flicks every year. Then you’ve got Michael Bay, those furiously fast folks, and a horde of others all who will ensure that pretty much anytime you go to your local megaplex you will be seeing a film that contains no

Independence Day 20th Anniversary Edition is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us invasions, counterculture icons, Holocaust survivors, and a fancy mop.
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Twenty years ago, I was a sophomore in college. That was the first summer where I didn’t go home for break and instead stayed at school and got a few more credits. I went to a small, private university and it was absolutely dead in the summer. Almost everybody took off, leaving only a hundred of us or so staying on campus. We formed a strange bond, those of us that stayed, hanging out though we weren’t really friends in the normal school months. My roommate stayed too and we mostly just hung out watching TV when we weren’t in

Son of Saul is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us two movies about the Holocaust, three films from Criterion, Natalie Portman with a gun, a Christmas horror story, and more.
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The Holocaust has been milked and bilked of every possible dramatic meaning for decades on screens both big and small. One would think you couldn’t possible find another way to tell its story. Apparently one would be wrong. Son of Saul tells the story of a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando - Jewish concentration camp prisoners forced to help with disposing of their comrades' corpses or be killed themselves. I’d heard of these people before, and imagined how horrible that experience must have been, but this is the first time I’ve heard of it being presented dramatically. A fresh story

The Revenant is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us Leonardo DiCaprio getting torture porned, Maggie Smith living in a van, Julia Louis-Dreyfus playing politics, and much more.
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If you relentlessly abuse your no-name actors, then your film gets called torture porn, but if you treat Leonardo DiCaprio in the same manner, then you win Oscars. Or something. There’s a lot of nonsense politics involved in the Academy Awards and with critical evaluations of genres, and just general movie watchng. Just read the message boards on IMDB on any given film and you’ll see nothing but nonsense. Personally, I can dig a little low-brow torture porn alongside my high-minded films where big named stars get mauled viciously by bears. The Revenant certainly does abuse Leonardo DiCaprio over and

Bride of Re-Animator is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us reanimated corpses getting married, Cray Grant as a fly-boy, DC comic heroes fighting, other Heroes being reborn and much more.
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When I was a young teen, I used to daydream about the day when I’d turn 16 and could take myself to see R-rated movies (or rent them at the video store). My parents were not ridiculously strict with these things. I’d seen plenty of R-rated movies but those were mostly action movies. In my family, like many American families, violence on the screen was okay for us young ones to watch. We could get away with a certain amount of cursing in movies, but sex and nudity were big no-nos. On the occasions my mother was out of town,

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us Star Wars! And some other stuff.
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From the moment George Lucas announced the sale of his Star Wars franchise to Disney and that there would then be more movies, the hype has been astronomical. Every day there were dispatches from TV, radio, podcasts, and more websites than one can imagine. We learned about each cast member as they got hired, about the crew, the caterers, about the shooting locations, the title, the posters, the trailers, the teaser posters for the trailer, and when J.J. Abrams sneezed on his way home. They hype was colossal. It was absolutely insane. I totally loved it. Well, that's not entirely

The Hateful Eight is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us new Tarantino, old foreign classics, cyborgs, Will Smith, and more.
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Last Friday, I loaded the family into the car and we spent Easter weekend in our old stomping grounds in Tennessee. Good Friday was also my 40th birthday and we celebrated with multiple parties, tons of food, and lots of laughs with some old friends. On several occasions, various friends came up to me to ask what movies I had seen lately, or what my top films of 2015 were, etc. This isn’t surprising as I’m a big pop-culture nerd and film buff and as such that tends to be what me and my friends talk about. The thing is,

Black Mama, White Mama is the Pick of the Week

This week's new releases include a classic comedy, a not-so classic exploitation drama, the conclusion of the Hunger Games and more.
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Every once in awhile you have to ask yourself whether you want the much beloved, critically acclaimed, and highly influential classic comedy or the ridiculously sexist and exploitative women-in-prison flick to be the pick of the week. And if the person asking is me, you go for the exploitation flick. Every time. In the 1970s, Pam Grier was the queen of the exploitation flick. Between 1970 and 1973, she made such classics as The Big Doll House, Women in Cages, The Big Bird Cage, and this week’s pick, Black Mama, White Mama. All that before her 25th birthday and before

Brooklyn is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us several award-wining dramas and a ridiculous martial-arts flick.
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Though it was nominated for a slew of awards (including Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, and Actress at the Academy Awards), I’d probably not given it much thought to Brooklyn were it not for one man - screenwriter Nick Hornby. I first discovered Hornby via the John Cusack movie adaptation of his novel High Fidelity. I fell in love with that movie pretty much immediately and recognized quite a bit of myself in the music-obsessed, bad-at-relationships main character (as well as his friend’s obsessive need to constantly make top five lists). From that film, I sought out the book and loved

Macbeth (2015) is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a new Shakespearean adaptation, a reworking of Moby Dick and Frankenstein, plus three films from the French New Wave, and much more.
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What’s left to say about Shakespeare? What could I possible write that would convey his brilliance? Nothing of course. He was undoubtedly the greatest writer that the English language has ever (or likely will ever) know. His words have been read by millions of people in a myriad of languages for hundreds of years. The thing is, though, they really ought to be heard rather than read. As anybody taking high-school English can tell you, Shakespeare on the page can be rough going. His words are ancient and arcane lying dead in a book. Ah, but on the stage (or

Creed and Room are the Picks of the Week

This week brings us three Oscar contenders, Tom Hardy playing twins, a classic sci-fi novel turned into a miniseries by the Syfy network, and much more.
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The Oscars will be airing in a few of hours from when I’m writing this (and likely a few hours before this gets posted, and possibly days before you read it). I can easily say I don’t care a thing about who wins what, or who’s gotten snubbed, etc. Yet, as per usual, I’ll be watching the ceremony, reading various commentaries on the awards and hotly debating it on Twitter. Thing is, pretty much everyone recognizes the Oscars are fairly meaningless. All my film-buff friends love to talk about how pointless it all is, how it has no bearing on

Fargo: Season Two is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us another excellent season of a Coen Brothers spin-off, another Christmas for Doctor Who, fake moon landings, Catholic covers-ups, and much more.
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When they announced they were making a TV show out of the excellent Coen Brothers films, Fargo, I was skeptical. It is such a precise, idiosyncratic, self-contained film I couldn’t figure out how they could do anything else with it. Happily, I was very wrong. The first season was brilliant. It's not so much a sequel, a prequel. or any other kind of -quel you can think of as it is a tonally similar, barely existing in the same universe but just as wonderful kind of thing. With one minor exception, there aren’t any connections to the film other than

Black Mass Is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us Johnny Depp as a ganster, 33 Chilean miners, the Hollywood Blacklist, Steve Jobs, Girls and more.
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For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to watch gangster movies. There is just something about the mafia that is - while completely and utterly deplorable - really quite fascinating. It's not that they are the best at what they do, or the smartest, or even the toughest; it's that they know what they want and they just take it. And you’d better give it to them or you’ll wind up with both your legs broken. If you are lucky. While most of us shirk from everyday confrontation, gangsters thrive on it. They are willing to risk

Spectre is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us some Bond, a haunted house, a grandma, Leftovers, and much more.
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I have many fond memories of watching James Bond. I remember my dad taking me to see him in the theatre. I remember catching Octopussy as a pubescent teen on cable in the back bedroom of my grandparents' house. Then they started releasing the films on VHS, and I watched them all over again. I remember being so mad at Timothy Dalton when he got the gig as Bond as I’d heard rumors Pierce Brosnan was going to get the role and I’d loved him on Remington Steele. Then I remember being disappointed when Brosnan did get the role as

Bridge of Spies is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us three period dramas, a witch hunter and some zombies playing Tyler Durden.
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We’re less than a month away from the Oscars and I’ve seen exactly three of the nominated films - four if you count the animated feature nominees (and five more if you add in the animated shorts). This isn’t unusual for me as I rarely get to watch more than a couple of the nominees before the ceremony airs. I’ve noted many times before how difficult it is for me to get to the theatre to see new films and I won’t rehash that here. I do appreciate that many of the films now get released to home video just

Doctor Who: Series Nine, Part Two is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us Doctor Who split apart, Spike Lee modernizing the ancient Greeks, Jack Black fighting children's monsters, and Bradley Cooper playing with food.
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I have very vague memories of watching Doctor Who as a kid. This was the '80s when the long=scarfed Tom Baker was the titular character and the series ran late-night Saturdays on my local PBS station. I wasn’t really a fan of the series and I only watched it a few times, but I remember the Daleks. I remember being old enough to be embarrassed to ask my mother to lay down next to me afterwards but young (and terrified) enough to ask her anyways. When the new series came on, those memories weren’t enough to make me raise even

Criterion's Inside Llewyn Davis is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us one of the Coen Brothers' best films, some influential hip hop, a deadly mountain climb, a deadlier internship, and much more.
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Many times in these pages I’ve mentioned my extraordinary love for both the Criterion Collection and the Coen Brothers. When you put them together, you pretty much have a guaranteed Pick of the Week. Surprisingly, Inside Llewyn Davis is the first time the two have met. You’d think the Coens' films would get the Criterion treatment every time like Wes Anderson films do. Seemingly, their films fit the Criterion niche perfectly. They are quirky, arty, funny and often strangely violent . They are well loved by critics and maintain a relatively small but highly devoted fanbase. I suspect there is

The Martian is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us two Criterions, a Victorian Sherlock, a hacking Robot, and Ridley Scott once again making great films.
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I subscribed to the auteur theory before I even knew what that was. That is to say as I began to take films seriously, I naturally gravitated towards directors moreso than genres, stories and actors. There are certain directors whose films get me excited by the mere fact that it was directed by them whether or not anything else about the pictures is interesting to me at all. I’ll see anything by people like Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, and the Coen Brothers no matter if the stories or actors or anything else excites me about it. So much more is

Sicario is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us some cool sounding action, high-wire acts, zombies, detectives, Quentin Tarantino inspirations' and much more.
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A great big thanks to Davy for helping me out last week. Extra credit since I gave him about a day's notice. At least it was an easy week for him to cover. The last week of the year always brings out very little as the studios have all shot their wads for the Christmas shoppers and they’ve not yet had time to recharge for the new year. This week brings us quite a few things I’m finding interesting though most of it was found to be disappointing by critics and audiences alike. Still there’s a lot of it and

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