Winter is upon us. Snow is falling, cocoa is plentiful and there's no better time to curl up and let the stress of Christmas pass you by with a good book. Here's a trio of titles worth reading. Elizabeth Taylor by Ellis Cashmore Paparazzi everywhere; TMZ covering every celebrity's move 24/7. It's nearly impossible to imagine a time where this didn't exist. Ellis Cashmore's Elizabeth Taylor seeks to pinpoint when this oppressive obsession with celebrity first started, zeroing in on Elizabeth Taylor's public affair with Richard Burton. Cashmore doesn't rehash Taylor's biography. Instead, the book charts Taylor's rise from child
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What's worth reading this month?
Anna Biller's meticulous tribute to the world Russ Meyer and '60s/'70s melodramas.
This has been a year of studio era homages in cinema, with Hail, Caesar! and this week's Rules Don't Apply the more prominent ones. But those two pay tribute to a bygone era in surface presentation or via random references. If you want a film that lives, eats and breathes the dazzling, soap-bubble world of a time gone by then you can't do any better than The Love Witch. Too niche for its own good at times, The Love Witch is a jaw-droppingly meticulous recreation of the Russ Meyer and studio melodramas of the 1960s (a combination of Peyton Place
Some books that will make readers thankful.
The temperatures dropping and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. But that's no reason to stop reading. Here are a few books worth picking up for when the family becomes too much for you. Girls Will Be Boys: Cross-Dressed Women, Lesbians, and American Cinema, 1908-1934 by Laura Horak Since time immemorial girls and women have dabbled in the art of cross-dressing, look at Shakespeare's Rosalind from As You Like It. The idea of disguising the female identity to either subvert gender roles or present pointed critiques against masculinity has been in film since its inception and it hasn't been looked
TCM's popular Trailblazing Women series returns for a second season of leading ladies.
It's hard for me to pinpoint the first film I saw actress Illeana Douglas in, but she's been one of the actresses I've always enjoyed watching in cinema. Whether starring as the overly perky and pretentious art teacher in Ghost World (who mimicked a ceramics teacher I once knew), Nicole Kidman's snarky sister-in-law in To Die For, or the struggling songwriter with the new sound - starring opposite my pre-teen crush Eric Stoltz - in the utterly wonderful Grace of My Heart (or appearing in my guilty pleasure show, Law and Order: SVU), Illeana Douglas has crafted a prolific career
What's worth reading in October?
Feel that chill in the air? It's time to grab a mug of tea and curl up with a good book. Here are a few worth checking out. Thirty-Eight Witnesses: The Kitty Genovese Case by A.M. Rosenthal Fifty-two years has passed since Catherine Genovese was viciously murdered as 38 witnesses heard her cries for help, and did nothing. Originally published in the wake of the Genovese murder, New York Times editor A.M. Rosenthal's landmark text on the case is being republished in light of the recent documentary on the subject (boasting the same name). Rosenthal died in 2006 but in
Mira Nair's touching tribute to women the world over.
Disney's banked on sports films for the last decads, relying on stories of athletic prowess anchored by men. Their latest foray into the inspirational drama praises intellectual altheticism anchored by women; Queen of Katwe looks to slip undetected by audiences this week due to a hackneyed, and unexplainable, series of limited releases by the studio. Unfortunately, this threatens to bury one of the brightest, warmest and all-around best acted films of the year! Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) is a young Ugandan struggling to make ends meet for her put-upon mother (Lupita Nyong'o) and siblings. The one joy in Phiona's life
The Criterion Collection releases the best camp melodrama out there!
America was a bit of a mess in the 1960s, not just on the national stage but at the local cineplex as well. By the time the decade was over, the Hollywood studio system as audiences knew it was dead - killed by a man who could “talk to the animals” of all things. But Hollywood limped to the finish line with the tortured tale of three lovely ladies and their struggles with fame and addiction in Valley of the Dolls. Dolls, as campy then as it is now, receives a shot of respectability this week with its premiere on
What's new from Arrow Video U.S. this month?
Arrow Video has a variety of amazing films out. Here's three worth plunking down your money for. Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (2011) Special effects master Ray Harryhausen inspired a legion of filmmakers who discovered a way to achieve the impossible through effects. His work in stop-motion remains unparalleled, finding the reality within the fantasy or, as Harryhausen himself says, bringing nightmares, dreams and fantasies to life. Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan looks at the films that cemented the man's career. Unlike a traditional documentary there's little to nothing about Harryhausen's personal life - his daughter has a cameo and
What's worth reading this month?
School's starting up and if you have kids that means you'll actually have time to read something. (And if you don't have kids you might already be reading.) Here are two great books worth making time for this month. I Lost It at the Video Store: A Filmmakers' Oral History of a Vanished Era by Tom Roston I'm a fan of oral histories because they capture the voice of those involved, describing their own individual views to create a richer, wider whole. Contradictions can abound as the passage of time allows each participant to see things they way they either
The directors of Floyd Norman: An Animated Life talk Disney, their subject and free art.
Floyd Norman is an animator with a big heart, and that's evident from hearing Michael Fiore and Eric Sharkey - the directors of Floyd Norman: An Animated Life - discuss him. They sat down with Cinema Sentries to talk about Norman, the editing process, and what happens when you're following the nicest man in the world. What was your background with the Walt Disney Company? Were you guys just fans of the studio or was there something more? Michael Fiore: We have no connection with the company. We are both Disney lovers and grew up on the great movies. As
Floyd Norman's life is landmark, no matter what.
My knowledge of the Walt Disney Company meant I immediately recognized the name Floyd Norman. No matter what he says, Norman is considered a legendary animator, for both breaking the studio's unspoken color barrier and for being one of the rare animators able to gain knowledge from Disney's "Nine Old Men." He now stands as one of the last animators to have worked with Walt Disney; the last living animator to work on The Jungle Book. With such a record of distinction it's amazing to hear Norman's just now receiving a documentary. Floyd Norman: An Animated Life charts Norman's rise
What's worth purchasing from Arrow Video this month.
Here's what's worth seeking from Arrow this month. Suture (1993) Arrow Video is such a necessity in the Blu-ray landscape if only to find a hidden gem like Suture. I'd never heard of this twisty, noirish psychological thriller before Arrow's recent Blu-ray release, and I heartily recommend giving it a blind buy. In the vein of Memento (complete with black and white aesthetic), Suture follows two recently reunited brothers, Clay and Vincent (Dennis Haysbert and Michael Harris). Despite their obvious racial differences both remark on their "remarkable resemblance." However, Vincent's motives for reuniting with Clay are proven to be suspect
Tony Richardson's tale of the sweet and sour gifts life delivers to us.
A renaissance in British cinema erupted in the 1960s; known as the Free Cinema and instigated by directors Tony Richardson, Lindsay Anderson, and Karel Reisz, British cinema of the era espoused fantasy for gritty realism. These "kitchen sink dramas" dealt with the uncertainty and futility of living poor in England. Richardson's own A Taste of Honey, out today on DVD and Blu via Criterion, depicts these issues with the faintest glimmer of a silver lining. Jo (Rita Tushingham) is a young teen struggling to find some stability with her flight, man-obsessed mother (Dora Bryan). Jo soon falls for a kind
Todd Phillips hopes lightning strikes with his aggressive tale of bros, guns and international arms dealing
War Dogs ads have glommed on to the recent trend of lampooning Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan as a means of illustrating American deceifulness. But War Dogs dips a toe into the water, excoriating the "dude-bro" mentality inherent in Trump's acolytes while simultaneously condemning his, and America's, actions. Hangover director Todd Phillips' desperation to follow in fellow comedic director Adam McKay's footsteps clings to this film like Jonah Hill's flopsweat as he liberally borrows from every Wall Street movie, from The Big Short to Boiler Room. Aided by two of Hollywood's most divisive actors with regards to disingenousness,
One woman's mediocre rise to fame looks good, if nothing else.
Best known to 30-somethings as the director of High Fidelity (or for one of my favorite crime dramas, The Grifters), Stephen Frears' output over the last ten years has clung fast to the tea and crumpet set. Between the Academy Award-winning The Queen and the Academy Award-nominee Philomena, you can see Frears hopes third time's a charm with Florence Foster Jenkins. The presence of Meryl Streep alone could make this a walk to the Oscars, but Frears suffers from diminishing returns in this take on the braveries of mediocrity reminiscent of this year's Eddie the Eagle. Florence Foster Jenkins (Streep)
What's hot on the shelves this month?
The summer is winding down and school is only a few weeks away. Here's what's worth reading as you shop for "back to school stuff." Razzle Dazzle by Michael Riedel "Give my regards to Broadway" and to Michael Riedel for creating funnest, authoritative book on the history of the Great White Way. Razzle Dazzle is a compact history of Broadway, from its formation through the early 2000s. His primary focus is on the Shubert family - Broadway's biggest landlord and name behind the powerful Shubert Organization - and how a couple Jewish brothers turned Broadway into a corrupt, but highly
DC's latest superhero film is heavy on action, woefully undercooked everywhere else
After the massive blunder called Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad was primed to represent the funky cool cousin who sets the reset button on the grimdark world DC set up for itself. Unfortunately, what audiences ended up with was the equivalent of the cool cousin O.D.ing on shrooms who tries to hide it by acting like their older relative. And by that I mean Suicide Squad is the same drab, lifeless, convoluted continuation of what we saw in BvS (and, based on the recent Hollywood Reporter article detailing production troubles and an alternate studio cut explains the
Twilight Time delivers another solid spate of titles in July
A trio of amazing Twilight Time releases arrive, worthy of your hard-earned money. Romeo is Bleeding(1993) When they say "love is blind," I doubt it extends to the utter blindness exhibited by small-time crooked cop Jack Grimaldi (Gary Oldman) in Peter Medak's 1993 neo-noir. The story of a cop's attempt to kill a vicious Russian assassin, Mona Demarkov, (played by a scantily clad Lena Olin) has an ironic sensibility to it in today's day and age. Upon first glance Olin's sexually aggressive assassin isn't the best depiction of femininity, especially when coupled with the camera's need to showcase her backside,
A lack of punch smothers a truly terrifying premise.
No matter the environmental documentary, from global warming to fast food production, most emphasize the negativity that arises from complacency and how it is up to humanity to get off the couch and change things. Ivy Meerpool's Indian Point espouses similar messages regarding nuclear power, but it too often keeps cutting off the ever sprouting tentacles of the octopus found in discussions of nuclear power. In the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster Americans have become increasingly concerned about their own nuclear power stability, with many plants located near major metropolitan areas. One such plant is Indian
An interesting premise gets lost in a rushed narrative and overused jump scares.
What's the first thing people do when the power goes out? Search for light. Whether it's for safety or a genuine fear, no one likes the dark, and the new horror film Lights Out will tell you no one likes it before there's something lurking within it. Lights Out was one of my most anticipated films this year and I hate to say it didn't do anything for me. This could due to a fatigue that's setting in around the films James Wan - who still solid as a horror director - is producing at a pace that verges on
Paul Feig and crew make a rollicking comedy on par with the original.
To say that a Ghostbusters reboot courts controversy is like saying water is wet. It took, for lack of a better word, balls. Is the hate warranted? Considering the animosity stems from the film putting women in male roles, hell no. "No self-respecting scientist believes in the paranormal," Kristen Wiig's Erin Gilbert says and I'd have to chime in with "or the idea of women playing Ghosbusters" in spite of all the cosplay to the contrary. Ghostbusters is a fun summer movie that may try too hard to justify its own existence and feminist impulses, but there is plenty of
The year's best (and strangest) documentary will leave you 'tickled'.
Tickling is a dangerous business; just ask the directing duo of David Farrier and Dylan Reeve whose documentary debut, Tickled proves just that. Tickled is a deliciously watchable mystery with the intrigue and guilty pleasure personality of a Law and Order: SVU/To Catch a Predator marathon. The story Farrier and Reeve set out to expose is so deliriously weird it makes up for any amateurishness in the directing duo's presentation. Tickled is one of the year's weirdest (and downright) best films of the year! David Farrier is a New Zealand-based journalist who one day comes upon a site advertising "competitive
Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You Movie Review: A Sensitive Portrait of a Socially Conscious Mind
The creator of All in the Family looks at his life, career, and the family ghosts that still haunt him.
"Each of us is responsible for our own happiness," says television producer and impresario Norman Lear. And Lear, 90 years young, has found plenty of happiness in his own life that it's hard to fathom all the additional happiness he brought to others with his television shows, capturing hearts and opening up minds. It's said there was a time "before Norman" and "after Norman," and in Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You audiences see what the world was like, both before and after Lear's ground-breaking television shows asked audiences to think and act. His socially critical and controversial television
Abs and a short runtime turn this 'legend' into a short story.
Tarzan of the Apes, the first novel in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan series, was published in 1912 and critical analysis has written numerous times on how the novels did their part to perpetuate white-male superiority in colonial Africa. Numerous feature films and television shows have done their best since then to change Tarzan with the times. Director David Yates of Harry Potter (and the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them) takes his shot at a new incarnation of the loincloth-wearing superman of the jungle with The Legend of Tarzan. John Clayton (Alexander Skarsgard), Viscount Greystoke and formerly Tarzan
What's worth reading this month
The sun is out and the temperature's rising. What better way to spend your time than with a good book? This month I have four film-themed books worth checking out! The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett by Nathan Ward Best known as the author of The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man, author Dashiell Hammett created detectives evoking the real world, a world both shadowy and connected to Hammett himself. Nathan Ward's The Lost Detective gives audiences a glimpse at Hammett through the prose he work. As a former operative for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, Hammett's first novels saw him
Steven Spielberg makes a sweet, if slight fairy tale.
Seven years have passed Wes Anderson's fantastic Fantastic Mr. Fox, the last time a work by author Roald Dahl was adapted for cinemas. And even more time has passed since director Steven Spielberg created works for children. Dahl and Spielberg should equal success, so then why is The BFG so paint-by-numbers? Held up alongside past Dahl adaptations, Spielberg's formulaic presentation loses the novel's sense of quirk. Though the source material doesn't yield itself up to an utterly terrifying feature, a la The Witches, the entire affair will appeal to young children, and young children alone. Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is a
What's on tap from Arrow Video this month.
What the best from Arrow in June? The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971) Italian giallo films are an acquired taste that I'm unsure I've acquired. The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is one of the more fast-paced and cinematic of the those I've watched, but it's logic remains ill-defined and as messy as the blood-spattered walls at the end. Divided into two halves, things start out with a slash - introducing Lord Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen) as a sadistic murderer with a penchant for torturing women with red hair. Alan hopes to purge the inner
Elisabeth Subrin's directorial debut zeroes in on women in entertainment.
Whether it be directing or writing features, or just leading movies of substance, audiences are frustrated about how women are faring in the world of entertainment. Director Elisabeth Subrin's debut, A Woman, A Part explores the different facets of the female personality with an aim towards demanding added nuance regarding women in cinema, creating a "women's picture" without the perjoratives associated with the term. As the title implies, women are more than parts trotted out for a token bit of estrogen on a poster, and though Subrin's assertions are life-changing, the presentation will please indie fans. Anna (Maggie Siff) is
This underseen 1960s noir is a precursor to the 1990s erotic thriller.
It's an average day in sunny Los Angeles. Two men - you wouldn't immediately avoid them but they definitely possess an agenda - come out of the haze with crime on their mind. So begins Leslie Stevens' little seen noir, Private Property. The low-budget film, shot in ten days, recently premiered at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival, bringing to light a twisted, sexually charged noir that ties in to today's gender dynamics. Duke and Boots (Corey Allen and Warren Oates) are two small-time hoods. Boots is a virgin intent on proving his virility to Duke, and a random encounter
Showgirls for Millennials.
I entered the theater with feelings of doubt prior to watching Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon. The one-two punch that was Bronson and Drive led to the utter train wreck of Refn's Ryan Gosling follow-up, Only God Forgives, so the director is 2-1 in my book, and critics division on Neon Demon is as wide as our current political party lines. Three critics walked out before the film was over and audience members were shouting at the screen. When the lights went up, I was left confused. Was this a prestige picture by a director touted as a "revolutionary,"
Opioid addiction and one doctor's questionable practices are brought to light.
The first rule of the Hippocratic oath can be recited by those without a medical degree: First, do no harm. But in a world where nearly all problems can be fixed, or at least sated, with the help of a pill, questions crop up as to whether the cure is as bad as the disease. The recent death of Prince through opioid overdose only makes Eve Marson's documentary, Dr. Feelgood, tragically timelier. Dr. Feelgood tells the tale of Virginia doctor William Hurwitz, accused of overprescribing opioid medications to his patients who see him as an angel of mercy. Audiences first
A new generation is set to inherit our mistakes, but we still have a choice...
A decade has passed since Al Gore reported to us about climate change, and won an Academy Award, with An Inconvenient Truth. Since then cars have become more gas efficient (or entirely electric) and not a day goes by that articles about food consumption or drought pop up to remind us of the real effects of climate change. Documentarian Charles Ferguson's Time to Choose espouses the same rhetoric as the Gore doc, but with added scrutiny towards individual pollutants destroying our world. Opening by documenting Earth's majesty, those who enjoyed the BBC's Planet Earth series might experience some deja vu.
A dark examination of violence and imprisonment against trans women of color.
With trans issues at the forefront of several legal squabbles, it isn't surprising that documentaries have cast their eye towards analyzing the world of LGBTQI issues and the broken justice system which repeatedly fails them. Acting as a close cousin to the fantastic Southwest of Salem is Free CeCe, a similar story of prosecutorial misjustice and a sobering look at violence against trans women of color. On a hot summer night in 2011, Chrishaun "CeCe" McDonald was attacked by a group of white people while out walking with friends. In the ensuing melee, a man died and CeCe is arrested,
Director Anna Rose Holmer crafts a coming-of-age film on par with The Witch
Donovan once sang it "must be the season of the witch" and with Robert Eggers' New England folktale, The Witch, and Anna Rose Holmer's The Fits, Donovan might be on to something. The Fits leaves audiences simultaneously enraptured and curious, concoting a hazy world remarkably unremarkable, filled with double meanings and symbolism. One of the year's best films with a powerhouse performance from newcomer Royalty Hightower makes The Fits a "fitting" entry in a cinematic landscape examining female adolescence. Toni (Hightower) is a young girl interested in boxing but who dreams of joining her gym's local dance troupe filled with
Jojo Moyes' novel gives audiences a generic portrait of disability couched in a formulaic melodrama.
A common technique in classic film of the 1930s-1950s was disabling, or other means of eliciting tears, one half of a romantic couple with the subsequent melodrama inspiring tears and pity in equal measure. Just how would the two lovers survive in such a cruel world? This weekend's adaptation of Jojo Moyes' novel, Me Before You, seeks to tap in to the melodrama of old, but in 2016 it's far too generic and unpleasant. After losing her job, Louisa "Lou" Clark (Emilia Clarke) takes a chance at being the caretaker to a wealthy disabled man named Will (Sam Claflin). Will
What's worth reading in June?
From a romantic adaptation to the world of classic Hollywood, here's a trio of titles worth taking to the beach with you in June. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes In the interest of full disclosure, I entered into reading Jojo Moyes' incredibly popular novel with a heavy dose of trepidation. As a disabled person myself, I abhor reading stories that take disabled characters and use them as inspirational totems and that's what Me Before You is. Adapted and set for release in cinemas on June 3rd, the story follows Louisa "Lou" Clark (set to be played by Emilia Clarke)
Jodie Foster's latest turn as director is too little, too late.
In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, Hollywood did everything to help audiences understand what happened in a multitude of ways, from the serious, jargon-heavy work of Margin Call to the light-hearted, if condescending discussion in last year's Oscar-nominated film The Big Short. With an audience already aware of how heartless corporations, and, more specifically, investment companies are, Jodie Foster's Money Monster can only ever come off as a well-informed also-ran. Lee Gates (George Clooney) is the unlikable anchor of a popular investment program called Money Monster. When an unstable man (Jack O'Connell) straps a bomb to Gates,
This '90s cheese fest could only be elevated by our Rifftrax trio.
Rifftrax Live returns this month with another foray into the world of bad cinema, this time discussing the 1994 time-travel adventure Time Chasers. Led by Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett, the Rifftrax gang is back talking bad time travel, horrific office locations, and chimp firemen. Time Chasers and its Rifftrax presentation aren't the funniest or most memorable of the Rifftrax live events, but it will still put a smile on your face! Time Chasers follows pilot Nick Miller (Matthew Bruch) who discovers the means of time travel. He makes a deal to sell his time travel "transport"
From the Tudors to terror, actress Sarah Bolger shines as an unhinged babysitter.
The horror genre cannibalizes itself, and I'm not talking about movies about cannibals. Unlike other genres, horror stereotypes are so ingrained in the collective consciousness that it's near impossible not to watch a horror movie through the lens of a previous one. Emelie immediately conjures up similarities to The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and that's not a bad thing in my book, being one of my favorite "rogue babysitter" films. Sarah Bolger and the child actors assemble work wonders with a script that tries to avoid the pitfalls but never sticks the landing. A couple's anniversary sees them hiring
What's worth reading in the month of May?
Our Gang: A Racial History of the Little Rascals by Julia Lee The cherubic innocence of Hal Roach's Our Gang series delighted children and adults throughout the nation in the early years of cinema. But as racial politics changed the adventures of Alfalfa and his friends were criticized for their past connections to racism. Author Julia Lee attempts to debunk the cries of Our Gang's fraught past by looking at the series from a racial angle. Blending individual episode analysis with the history of the series, Lee tells the tale of Roach's desire to make a series about real children
The grue is ramped up to 11 with Arrow's latest output.
You can't say Arrow Video isn't unpredictable! From gory horror to hard-boiled action and a biopic, Arrow has a cadre of films worth buying right now! Here are a few below: The Bride of Re-Animator (1989) Re-Animator (1985) is one of my favorite horror films. Its splatter-filled gruesomeness and Lovecraftian origins take the Frankenstein tale to Grand Guignol-level highs. Until now, I didn't realize a franchise built up around the story of brothers in blood Dan Cain and Herbert West. Thankfully, Arrow's new release of the 1989 sequel will do a lot to help fans discover it, or revisit it.
This unnecessary prequel/sequel piles on opulence in lieu of interest.
When Snow White and the Hunstman debuted in 2012, it marked the beginning of what's become sloppily known as the "revisionist fairy tale" genre, a genre that still hasn't found the presumably fervid audiences that'll eat every morsel Hollywood serves up to us. The Huntsman: Winter's War will leave you near starving with the lack of anything that passes for intrigue or stakes, with its beautifully costumed cast aimlessly wandering a landscape so unsure of itself it refuses to declare itself a sequel or prequel and becomes both. Freya (Emily Blunt), the sister of Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), has spent
A documentary that both fascinates and infuriates audiences to action.
In a true-crime landscape of Serial and Making a Murderer there's absolutely no better time for Deborah Esquenazi's documentary Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four. Similar to Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's Paradise Lost series with its exploration of small town conservatism and a group of outcasts accused of a heinous crime with little evidence, Esquenazi's documenting of the women collectively known as the San Antonio Four infuriates and terrifies in equal measure. With the case still being investigated currently the story is only beginning... In 2000 four women were accuses of sexually assaulting two little
Jon Favreau recreates The Jungle Book lusher and grander than ever before.
Almost fifty years have passed since The Jungle Book graced movies screen, marking the end of an era as the last film personally overseen by Walt Disney. Disney's corporate jungle has changed a lot in 49 years but director Jon Favreau brings the magic back with his interpretation of Rudyard Kipling's tale, engaging audiences in a lush world beautifully rendered in photo-realistic CGI while introducing old characters with added nuance and pathos. Favreau treads a new path by simply repainting and expanding the old one, creating a new tale Uncle Walt would be proud of. Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi) has
Desires and religion clash in this absorbing familial documentary.
Blood is thicker than water is a common adage trotted out in order to emphasize the unbreakable bonds of family. Our family, in theory, should be comprised of the people who know us best and, conversely, whom we know as well as ourselves. Director Cecilia Aldarondo questions familial authenticity in the gripping documentary Memories a Penitent Heart. Turning the camera inward, Aldarondo explores her own family and identity through investigating her deceased uncle. Comparisons to Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell abound, but Aldarondo tackles something beyond just her insular family world, casting a net which comprises the religious and cultural
Karyn Kusama creates a slow-burn with a stellar cast.
A group of people reuniting after a certain period of time always makes for awkward fun, whether it's the story of a high school reunion or, as in Karyn Kusama's The Invitation, friends meeting two years later after one of their own has gone on a mysterious retreat to Mexico. The Invitation is a slow-burn thriller with elements heavily borrowed from the work of Ti West - the comparison alone dictates whether you'll enjoy the film or not - that blends the awkward humor of The Overnight with the terror of The Sacrament. Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend Kira
Ethan Hawke sizzles in unconventional Chet Baker biopic.
A week seemingly filled with biopics, from the Hank Williams story I Saw the Light to Don Cheadle's Miles Ahead, director Robert Budreau's Chet Baker biopic, Born to Be Blue, ironically finds itself in competition with Cheadle's tale, both recounting the muddy lives of famous jazz musicians. (Born even has Baker (Ethan Hawke) ask a fan who's better - him or Miles Davis - an unintentionally fun poke at the two film's release this week.) But on its own merits Budreau's tale is an unconventional, if still remarkably straightforward, walk in Baker's shoes, recounting his struggles with addiction and struggles
What's worth reading for April?
Spring has sprung, so let's see what's worth putting on your bookshelves this month. Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own by Kate Bolick Kate Bolick's book is a mixed bag of personal memoir, feminist history, and biography, all of which makes for good, if patchy, reading. Bolick details the female fear of "spinsterhood," charting its applications throughout history and her own personal fears of being alone. When Bolick takes the time to focus on the actual issues regarding the spinster trope - including the rise of the cat or bag lady - the book takes on a fascinating feminist
The lively tale of the computer cowboys who changed personal computing.
It's near impossible to escape technology in this day and age, and with it such an integral part of our functioning as a species enough time has passed that the Hollywood nostalgia train has cast its eye towards showing us a moment when taking your computer home with you was a novel proposition. "Compaq is the story of how David challenges Goliath" and in the wake of all the Steve Jobs films, both documentary and narrative, director Jason Cohen's documentary, Silicon Cowboys, about the formation of the Compaq corporation, looks to make as big a splash as the films about
Disney's latest is a mixed bag of political inquiry and film noir.
As Disney continues basking in the icy glow of Frozen's success the rest of their animation output - the films unassociated with Pixar - hovers in the "delightfully pleasant" category. Past efforts like Big Hero 6 and Wreck-It Ralph have provided fun and whimsical diversions, if lacking long-term memorability and serious appreciation. There's little doubt you'll forget Zootopia as Disney gets politically charged, presenting a world of anthropomorphized animals acting out our worst prejudices that both reminds us of how terrifying a world run by Donald Trump can be while simultaneously teaching children about tolerance. The dual-level satire of Zootopia's
What's worth reading this month.
I'm an avid book reader and it's because of this avidity that I can read freely under the guise of "working." Kristen's Book Club will help you find the perfect film-related - or should be filmed - book to spend time with each month. We'll also look at upcoming novels soon to be adapted for the big screen. In this inaugural column we'll explore Superman's origins, more from the star of Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, and a Hollywood director receiving the biography treatment. Bending Steel by Alan J. Regalado One of the more analytical books available this month is Alan J.
Disney's latest has great effects but squanders a decent plot in a contrived love story.
You know the year's just begun when Disney debuts their latest inspiriational drama. Usually geared towards the sports world (Miracle, McFarland USA), this year's feature is a water-logged mix of The Perfect Storm meets Kevin Costner's The Guardian set in Stephen King's Castle Rock. The lobster roll they form is The Finest Hours, a film whose B-plot should be the film's main focus but instead looks at an A-plot so cutesy and generic you'll get a cavity just watching. 1952, Chatham, Massachusetts. An oil tanker named the Pendleton gets caught in a horrific storm that leaves the boat broken in
Despite its talent, Mojave trades on incomprehension as opposed to tension.
Nothing good ever happens in the desert, or at least that's the ultimate message in director/screenwriter William Monahan's latest film, Mojave. Well-regarded as the screenwriter of Martin Scorsese's gritty crime drama, The Departed, Monahan takes a shot at his own gritty crime drama, eschewing bullets and F-bombs for grand soliloquies about life and a scenery-chewing performance from Oscar Isaac. Hollywood screenwriter Thomas (Garrett Hedlund) finds himself disillusioned and adrift. A trip to the Mojave desert is hoped to clear his mind until he meets the mysterious Jack (Isaac), a shiftless drifter with devious intentions. A moment involving murder places Thomas
Creed ranks as one of the top films in the Rocky franchise while creating a beautiful new road to travel.
I may not have seen all the Star Wars films, but I've watched all the films in the Rocky franchise. That counts for something, right? Having gone through the entire saga of small-time boxer turned superstar, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), the series ran its course after the 2006 "farewell," Rocky Balboa. Since then, the Rocky series has opened itself up to parody and critique - remember when Rocky singlehandedly ended the Cold War? Personally, I always found the story of Rocky's long-standing opponent, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) to have the more interesting plot. Creed was a superstar boxer unable to
The Inhabitants thinks about venturing into new territory but too often falls into convention despite solid acting and storytelling.
October is the month for horror! And once the calendar rolls from September 30th to October 1st VODs and On-Demand services are often awash in low-budget horror, but are any of them truly worth your time? The Inhabitants is one such film, and there is much to praise in a film that hearkens back to atmospheric films like Let's Scare Jessica to Death or, its closest influence, Ti West's House of the Devil or The Innkeepers. The air of foreboding is present, elevated by surprisingly well-done performances from its two leads, but I wanted the script to go big or
HBO's newest series creates a complex and confusing web of intrigue worth watching and rewatching.
Those who know me are aware of my regular refrain when the fall arrives: "I don't watch television." With so many movies out there, I find little worth devoting three months of my life to on a weekly basis. Life's too short to waste on bad television. The Leftovers was recommended to me constantly, so I decided to give the pilot a cursory glance....cut to a day and a half later and I'd successfully binged watched the entire series, a first for me. As if that's not already a rare occurence, I rarely ever watch the same season twice but
Excellent performances abound in this simultaneously bouncy and somber biopic.
There's an uncategorized subgenre in the biopic world - geniuses struggling through mental illness. It's been well documented that the smartest people in the world were often marred, and aided, by their "madness." Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys was one such genius desperate to recreate the symphony in his head and turning out an album considered one of the best ever made, Pet Sounds. Director Bill Pohlad presents that with Love & Mercy, the story of Wilson's return from the brink, particularly after the Beach Boys broke up. Not breaking any new ground narratively, Love & Mercy is a
Director Alex Gibney's book report on Walter Isaacson's more impressive exploration of the Apple founder.
Steve Jobs has always been a hot commodity, but no more so than right now when not one but two films are casting an eye on the tech genius. Danny Boyle's upcoming narrative on the Apple founder, starring Michael Fassbender, won't hit theaters till October, but in the meantime there's Alex Gibney's documentary, Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine. Touted as showing the "real" Steve Jobs, Gibney's documentary is woefully underwhelming, particularly to anyone who's read Walter Isaacson's exhaustive, 656 page biography on the man. Having just finished that book not two days ago, 90% of Gibney's doc simply
American Experience reveals the darkness and the light behind the man who invented the mouse.
I'm a Disney nut. There, I said it. Too often I'm asked "Why do you love a company known for its phony aesthetic values?" or "You're 27. How can you still love Disney?" I never come up with the proper answers to these questions outside of "Disney makes me happy." PBS' latest installment of their American Experience series lifts the veil off the man who extrapolated (and, in some cases, commidified) childhood happiness with their examination of Walt Disney. The American Experience: Walt Disney humanizes a man often canonized as the patron saint of exuberance, portraying him as a devoted
Alicia Silverstone shows she's still clueless in this 1990s erotic thriller lacking in both areas.
Clueless remains one of my favorite films of all time. From the minute I saw its pastel colored world of baby-doll dresses and platform shoes, worn to success by the luminously blonde Alicia Silverstone, she taught me everything I needed to know about beauty, fashion, and to always leave a note when you sideswipe another car. In the wake of what I call Clueless-mania, Silverstone became Hollywood's "it" girl, a moniker that was never proven despite her success in Amy Heckerling's film. The Babysitter, released just three months after Clueless as a means of capitalizing on Silverstone's success, sailed by
Little life or suspense is contained in this sluggish Hitchcock homage.
Meryl Streep. An actress often named among the greatest actresses who ever lived. An actress whom, many claim, has never starred in a bad picture. I debunk that myth and point to this 1982 mystery thriller, Still of the Night, now on Blu-ray through Kino's KL Studio Classics. It's certainly interesting watching this Hitchcock throwback; and it couldn't have come at a more propitious time in Streep's career - released eight months after she won an Oscar for Sophie's Choice. However, despite the reteaming of Streep with director Robert Benton, helmer of Kramer vs. Kramer, Still of the Night is
Twilight Time releases this beautifully rendered ode to art and life for the first time on Blu-ray.
British cinema has a style, a feeling all its own, which is why some of the world's greatest actors and actresses hail from the land of our past oppressors (I say that with love, of course!). With that being said, it's great to look back at certain British films and see our top actors back when they were just beginning, as is the case with Twilight Time's recent Blu-ray release of 1987's A Month in the Country. A quiet, meditative film, A Month in the Country gave us the acting debuts of both Kenneth Branagh and Colin Firth, playing roles
A slow-burn examination of drugs and police corruption is revealed in Kino's recent Blu-ray release.
Reflecting the times, the cinematic landscape of the 1990s found itself awash in drugs (on-screen, at least). On the heels of films like Goodfellas and New Jack City, director Lili Fini Zanuck directed Rush. Despite a setting in 1975, Rush is very 1990s in its actors - popular stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jason Patric - as well as starring roles for Gregg Allman and a soundtrack by Eric Clapton in his somber phase. Dated, to be sure, Rush is a slow burn that, had the budget and script gone bigger, could have presented some intriguing socio-political examinations regarding police
Twilight Time releases this underseen 1990s noir.
Unlike some niche Blu-ray distributors, Twilight Time doesn't just release classic films. Oftentimes their release output includes underrated or little seen gems that wouldn't immediately warrant an HD disc. In the case of their latest, the 1990 crime thriller State of Grace, rewatching this on Blu was a great way to re-familiarize myself with a film that I'd forgotten I enjoyed. After a decade-long absence, Terry Noonan (Sean Penn) returns to his hometown of Hell's Kitchen, immediately getting back into the good graces of small-time hood Jackie Flannery (Gary Oldman). As Terry becomes more comfortable with his old friend, he
While not as raunchy as The Room, Sharknado 2 has the Rifftrax guys doing what they do best.
The Rifftrax gang is back with the second of four films set to receive the live riff treatment in 2014. Dubbed "The Crappening," Rifftrax Live recently did the first of two shows around the Syfy "masterpiece," Sharknado 2, a continuation of the magical story of a tornado with sharks taking over New York City. As a standalone movie, Sharknado 2 lacks the campy humor of the first film, acknowleding its self-awareness and loading the film with cameos, and the Riff guys aren't as sharp as they were with the R-rated The Room, but it's hard not to love being seduced
MTV-esque white trash masquerading as a surf movie.
I went into Dawn Patrol with low expectations considering it's a surf movie slammed alongside a tale of murder and revenge. Really, I watched this for Scott Eastwood, the hottest thing since sliced bread - although, with that body, I doubt the man eats carbs. Unfortunately, not even Eastwood's visage can save this from being a downright terrible experience. Imagine if Point Break came without the camp, a hefty dose of race and sexism, and a total absence of 1980s Presidential masks. In the town of Venice Beach people are losing their homes to bank foreclosures. All they have to
Errol Morris looks at obsession, sex, and media in Tabloid.
Director Errol Morris has interviewed serious subjects like Robert S. MacNamara and delved deep into harsh topics like the justice system and the history of time itself. So it can only look like he's run out of ideas with the frothy, utterly ridiculous documentary, Tabloid. And you'd be wrong in that summation because Tabloid takes a crazy story, told by someone who seems to define the world, and opens it up into an examination of gender, the media culture, and the power of religion. At time's hilarious and ridiculous, Tabloid sounds like a fun documentary, but indicates that we haven't
Rifftrax gets down and dirtier than normal with Tommy Wiseau's magnum opus of ridiculousness.
Rifftrax Live has always played it safe with their movies. Back in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 days, audiences expected PG movies and broad, pop-culture tinged humor because of the sharp strictures of television censorship. And when Rifftrax went live, their movies were generally limited to PG-13 or unrated films, with the jokes being clean and broad. Their latest Riff is a gamechanger, both in content and humor, and it's something I hope they keep up with because Rifftrack Live's attack of Tommy Wiseau's schlock masterpiece The Room is their wittiest and funniest work to date. A brief synopsis of
"We're just weird enough to enjoy it!" - Bill Corbett
The Rifftrax gang, consisting of hosts Bill Corbett, Mike Nelson, and Kevin Murphy, are ready to bring their patented brand of cinematic humor back to audiences nationwide when Rifftrax presents Tommy Wiseau's atrocious drama The Room May 6th and 12th. I've been fortunate to talk to Mike and Kevin in the past, and can finally say I've talked to all three when Bill sat down to talk about The Room, bad movies, and the limits of good taste. I've talked to Kevin [Murphy], Mike [Nelson], and now you. You were the last one I needed to get and I officially
The bloated runtime leaves little time for characterization, but a whole lot of time for things to go BOOM!
If you've been one of the Marvel true believers for years then they've never made a bad movie. And, for the most part, I'd agree. There's just as many mediocre Marvel films out there as genuinely great ones, but Avengers: Age of Ultron stings the most because of how much it rests on what works and the fact that they're Marvel. It almost seems that that sentiment is acknowledged in director Joss Whedon's sequel, when a villainous henchman says nothing can defeat the Avengers because "They're the Avengers," and too often that adage is utilized to keep the plot rolling
One of 2014's best films hopes to discover new eyes on Blu.
It still stings a bit knowing J.C. Chandor's A Most Violent Year was all but ignored by the Academy last year. After Chandor's win for his screenplay on the equally exemplary Margin Call, it seemed all but expected that the film would nab an award or two. Unfortunately, outside of securing the National Board of Review's distinction as Best Film of the Year, it sailed under the radar. Thankfully, its reputation, blistering performances, and multilayered narrative can be rectified with the fantastic Blu-ray out now. 1981, New York, the "most violent year" in the city's history. Enmeshed within it all
Run, don't walk, to the merry ole land of Oz with TCM and Fathom Events!
It's such a cliche adage but it holds true nonetheless: There's something about seeing certain movies in a theater. I've watched The Wizard of Oz countless times on television, but I've never had the opportunity to experience the Judy Garland classic on a big screen. After making it their closing night film at the TCM Classic Film Festival last year - an event I missed! - Turner Classic Movies, Warner Bros. and Fathom Events worked together to bring the movie back into theaters in honor of its 75th anniversary. With another showing scheduled for this Wednesday stop what you're doing
Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig turn dysfunction into emotional drama in The Skeleton Twins
As the holidays get closer we'll all be thrust together with family we may love, but why are we stuck with them 24/7. There are countless Christmas-themed movies about spending awful holidays with equally awful extended families, but Craig Johnson's The Skeleton Twins says it doesn't have to be the holidays for your family to drive you nuts. Tightly controlled by leads Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, The Skeleton Twins is both funny and heartfelt, frustrating and endearing, in equal measure. Maggie and Milo (Wiig and Hader) haven't seen each other in a decade, but are thrust together when Milo
Come sail down the Amazon with the Rifftrax crew!
Attending a Rifftrax Live show is fun, no matter the film being lampooned. The amount of like-minded individuals who love to attend and laugh creates an infectious atmosphere that can elevate the ridiculous to levels of sheer insanity. After the grandiose riffing of Godzilla a few months back - a film Rifftrax leader, Mike Nelson said presented a challenge in sustaining laughs due to length - audiences were hoping for a return to form, and boy did we get it! Anaconda is a throwback to the creature features of 1950s with a group of misfits riding a dilapidated boat
Kristen Stewart finally shows her talent in this thought-provoking drama.
In the thirteen years since the events of September 11th, the "detainees" in Guantanamo and their rights have been hotly debated. Director Peter Sattler tells a story of individuals, where the soldiers are just as helpless to explain the events in the prison as those serving time, many without ever being given due process of the law, hoping to cast light on the gray area in-between with his debut feature film Camp X-Ray. Despite some cumbersome pacing issues, Camp X-Ray is a bittersweet, evocative tale of two people just as burdened and bound by the U.S. military, albeit for different
Nelson also covers the joys of Jon Voight, how hard it is to watch movies out of riff mode, and whether he thinks time is a flat circle.
If I interview Bill Corbett, I'll have talked to all three members of the Rifftrax crew! Maybe that sounds like bragging on my part, but these guys are the coolest trio on the planet, responsible for creating hilarious "riffs" on your favorite (and films whose favoritism you refuse to acknowledge) films via their site, Rifftrax. After a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, and the presentation of Roland Emmerich's Godzilla on the big screen (which was reviewed by Mark Buckingham), the trio are back with a Halloween treat: performing a live Riff on Anaconda! I sat down with Mike Nelson to
The story of the brash man who robbed a bank for love...so he says
It’s an unspoken rule in Hollywood’s appropriation of true events that said events are either painfully underwhelming or infinitely juicer than what ends up on the screen. So it is with the story of John Wojtowicz, the man who inspired Sidney Lumet’s 1975 drama, Dog Day Afternoon. Wojtowicz’s story is fascinating, but the flaw of a documentary with one predominant voice is bias smothers the filmmakers' intention of burrowing under the surface. Much like Dog Day Afternoon itself, there’s way more left off-screen than presented within. On a hot August day in 1972, John Wojtowicz and an accomplice robbed the
A somewhat progressive '80s throwback eschewing story for blood-letting.
Since his return to acting post-Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger hasn’t exactly been embraced with open arms by the action junkies of the world. His films are fun, but they aren’t the boffo box-office juggernauts they once were, and, along with his compatriots Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis (all of whom have found success as a package deal in The Expendables series), represent a dying era of action films audiences find cheesy and retro. Schwarzenegger’s latest, Sabotage, is certainly a brutal throwback to the ‘80s actioners of Schwarzenegger’s youth, and while there's some fantastic work from the females of the
A swingin' good time with Archie and the gang.
Almost anyone can name the first comic book they ever read. For many, it’s some type of superhero in either the Marvel or DC universe, but, for me, it was Archie and his gang from Riverdale. Yes, Archie and crew are very tame, and were also a highly idealized product of their time (attempts to break into other avenues to break their cookie-cutter image are on-going). My experience was with the various “digests,” containing several stories pasted into one book. Recently, IDW Publishing started putting out collections comprised of Archie’s adventures in the newspapers. Their latest collection, Archie: The Swingin’
Documentarian Dave LaMattina and puppeteer Caroll Spinney talk about their collaboration.
I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story sits comfortably at number one on my Best Movies of 2014 list. Whether it stays at number one depends on the rest of the year, but it'll be hard for another movie to play on my emotions, and better yet, my nostalgia, than this. I was fortunate to spend a few minutes talking to I Am Big Bird's co-director Dave LaMattina, and Big Bird himself, Caroll Spinney, about the documentary, the moments that made them go "wow," and Disney dunking their characters. In the end, these two left me laughing and almost
A darling story about a beloved television icon
Sesame Street’s Big Bird is one of the most beloved icons of children’s programming, if not the icon of childhood itself. But do you know the man living inside the suit? The man whom, without him, Big Bird or Oscar the Grouch wouldn’t exist? A life without these two characters is a horrific thought, which makes telling puppeteer Caroll Spinney’s story all the more necessary. I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story seeks to go inside the character of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to learn about the man who gives them life. Directors Dave LaMattina and Chad
Owning The Treasure of the Sierra Madre on Blu-ray is easier than finding the treasure itself.
If The Maltese Falcon was “the stuff that dreams are made of,” then The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is the stuff which gets you sent to Hell. John Huston’s comment on greed and materialism utilizes film noir tropes to create a multilayered experience as profound as it is entertaining. Beautifully rendered for Blu-ray from Warner Brothers, Treasure of the Sierra Madre ensnares you. Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) is a bum living in Tampico, Mexico whose aspirations are grander than his current situation. When he meets up with a young man named Curtain (Tim Holt) and a crazy old-timer
The story of an ugly duckling who transformed into a Pink Flamingo.
I’ve loved The Little Mermaid since I was five years old. Ursula is one of my favorite Disney villains. So when I was about 13 and had the internet at my disposal I discovered the inspiration for my favorite villain was John Waters’ “muse,” Divine. To me, the name meant absolutely nothing until I grew older. For all my appreciation of John Waters’s macabre humor and the role Divine played in it, I never knew anything about Divine as a person or actor. Thanks to documentarian Jeffrey Schwartz I’ve come away with a greater appreciation for the man who was
A bleak, but funny, tale of Hollywood's love/hate relationship with itself.
I’m a sucker for satirical movies about the vanity and prestige of Hollywood. Movies like The Player, Tropic Thunder, etc. cast a dark eye on the cast of characters who provide us entertainment on a daily basis. Blake Edwards’ S.O.B. is a semi-autobiographical skewering of Hollywood movers and shakers which simultaneously netted him a Golden Globe and Writers Guild nominations, alongside Razzies wins for Worst Screenplay and Worst Director. I came to the movie with a more prurient history: S.O.B. is the movie where Julie Andrews bares her breasts, and maybe for some readers that’ll be enough to get them
Looking for a horror movie to watch? Hidden Horror is the perfect guide to recommending new favorites.
I jump at the opportunity to read and review movie guides devoted to spotlighting movies off the beaten path. Film buffs always hear about the “must-sees” but what about the movies which continually slip under the radar de to limited budget or lack of audience? This happens the most in the horror field, a genre often glutted with so much product it’s easy to believe they’re all crappy. I remember Fangoria putting out an excellent horror film guide a few years back, but haven’t found a similar book which capitalized on blending smaller horror movies with some which have received
An intriguing look at a little known time in their lives.
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were immortalized as the tempestuous George and Martha in 1966’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The twice married (to each other) and divorced couple were life-long friends and their relationship is the poster child for on-again/off-again couples. In 2012, Lindsay Lohan scandalized the late Taylor in Lifetime’s screeching Liz & Dick, so when the BBC announced their own take on the Burton//Taylor relationship, simply dubbed Burton and Taylor, it was believed the British channel was riding Lifetime’s coattails. Burton and Taylor is head and shoulders above Liz & Dick, but it’s far from an enduring
Max Allan Collins' latest is a thrilling send-up of the grittiest pulp paperbacks.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a fan of author Max Allan Collins and have written in other places about his various books. With that out in the open, this is my first foray into his Quarry series, with more experience reading his true crime/historical mysteries led by Detective Nathan Heller. The Quarry series is heavily steeped in the world of Mickey Spillane (of whom Collins has worked with previously), with its mix of old-fashioned noir mystery and tons of salacious sex. The mystery of The Wrong Quarry is fairly light and unmemorable, but Collins’ rapid-fire prose is enough
The shocking death of Oscar Grant is reenacted tragically and reverently by debut director Ryan Coogler
As a California resident, specifically living near San Francisco, Fruitvale Station produced a slew of emotions before I sat down to watch it. I vividly remember the death of Oscar Grant and the ensuing trial and rioting following the verdict. It’s enough to color my perspective of how first-time director Ryan Coogler chooses to depict events. Regardless, as a film, Fruitvale Station is a moving tribute to Grant’s memory, as well as an exploration on the notion of race, personal history, and seizing the moment.On New Year’s Eve, 2008, 22-year-old Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) and a group of friends
'20 Feet From Stardom' is still a long way to fame in this beautiful documentary devoted to the ladies of music.
In our world of autotune and lip-synching it isn’t easy finding joy and talent within the music industry today. Thank goodness 20 Feet from Stardom is here to remind us; an uplifting documentary exploring the unsung (pun intended) ladies of the industry: backup singers. Joy, sadness, and unyielding potential coalesce to produce one of the best documentaries of the year!They’re literally twenty feet away from the microphone, and yet their hooks are the ones people sing endlessly to themselves. Background singers have been indelible within the music scene since the 1960s, and yet their attempts at solo careers generally end
A biting documentary casting a lens on war, genocide, and moviemaking.
When controversy springs up about the effects of American movies on the nation’s children, people respond in kind or roll their eyes. Movies are fictional, and anyone who doesn’t know that shouldn’t be watching them, right? In a way, Joshua Oppenheimer’s chilling documentary, The Act of Killing, is an exploration of the effects of American movies on the world’s children, and the results are surprising. Outside of the myriad of questions revolving around history and entertainment, the story follows a group of mass murderers coming to terms with atrocities they committed. The Act of Killing is a necessary piece of
Forrest J. Ackerman's life and love of horror is spotlighted in this charming documentary.
If you’ve ever grown up appreciating classic movie monsters, from King Kong to the work of Ray Harryhausen, than Forrest J. Ackerman deserves credit. His Famous Monsters of Filmland has inspired everyone associated with horror from Stephen King to Joe Dante. Unfortunately, Ackerman’s final years were mired in legal troubles and ill health, but his spirit lives on. Director Jason Brock lovingly pays tribute, and creates a solid documentary with The AckerMonster Chronicles! If you’ve ever wanted to learn about the man behind the magazine, Brock’s documentary whets your appetite and delivers on all it sets out to discuss.Ackerman wasn’t
Adventures rage on the high seas with Fox's latest Blu-ray
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment appeased movie fans this year with their Voice Your Choice program, wherein readers could vote for which classic films would receive a proper Blu-ray release. With the year coming to a close, Fox has released all the winners and they’re all special in their own way. The Black Swan is a quintessential swashbuckler filled with derring-do and swords aplenty. Anchored (pun kind of intended) by entertaining work from Tyrone Power, Laird Cregar, and Maureen O’Hara, The Black Swan may be out of touch at times, but the adventure on the high seas is unparalleled. When
Robert Evans goes to hell and back in his new autobiography.
Robert Evans is one of the few remaining producers anyone can name in Hollywood. After the smashing success of his autobiography, and subsequent documentary, The Kid Stays in the Picture, Evans became the poster child for Hollywood rambunctiousness and at the age of eighty he isn’t quitting yet. His second book, The Fat Lady Sang, isn’t necessarily an autobiography with loose lips and gossip dripping from every page; it’s an introspective story about a man who almost dies and is reborn into a body which refuses to cooperate. Writing the book kept Evans sane, and while it isn’t a page
Washington and Wahlberg band together to shoot guns and make you laugh.
In a year where '80s throwbacks are all the rage, 2 Guns is probably the best example of throwback done right. The plot is unnecessarily convoluted, filled with too many villains to keep track of, but anchored firmly by charismatic leads, Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington. Their chemistry together is worth the price of admission, and could be the beginnings of a burgeoning movie friendship if they play their cards right. Bobby Trench (Washington) is an undercover DEA agent, while Michael Stigman (Wahlberg) is undercover naval intelligence. Neither one knows the other’s true identity, but they end up pairing together
After watching the phenomenal documentary, CinemAbility, I was excited to sit down and talk to the movie’s director, Jenni Gold about her time as a Hollywood director and her amazing work. I’m wont to performing formal interviews, especially fearing I’ll run out of questions, but while talking to Jenni I found myself deferring the questions and having an amazing conversation with her about disability, movies, and everything in between.Our conversation started with me gushing about the documentary and discussing the merits of wheelchair use with Jenni. Take note, they have as many advantages as disadvantages. The thing I loved the
Disability is at the forefront of this amazing documentary.
I recall a prophetic moment in my life when my mother told me, “There are not many people you can emulate who look like you.” Growing up with a disability, it was always frustrating for me to dream of a job as a writer, especially in the entertainment arena, and realize I was a minority (female) within a minority (disabled) dreaming of a job where appearance is everything. As I’ve grown older, I never once thought of analyzing movies with regards to disabilities, even though I myself am disabled. It’s a bizarre contradiction at the heart of director Jenni Gold’s
Love can be a witch if you're Veronica Lake.
Halloween may be over, but any time is a good time for a new Halloween classic to mix in with your films next year. I’ve waited over a decade for Criterion to put out Veronica Lake’s bewitching classic, I Married a Witch. Thankfully, Criterion has taken my advice (yes, I’m claiming it), and the movie itself makes up for any deficiencies in bonus content.Jennifer (Veronica Lake) is a Salem witch burned at the stake by the founding member of the Wooley clan (Frederic March). Before her death she places a curse on the Wooley men, dooming them to a life
Sit down with three hilarious men making fun of a 1960s classic!
George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead has entered the pantheon of pop culture as the first zombie film - at least in the incarnation we know today. Anchored by a social commentary on race, the movie still holds its weight in that regard, although the rest has devolved into campiness. Thankfully, the trio of Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy are able to bring life into this black and white classic with their latest Rifftrax Live! event. A flesh feast of a good time was had, jokes were made (some incredibly risqué compared to past events), and a
If you're expecting Drive 2, you're in for serious disappointment.
Before you ask, the answer is no; I didn't believe Only God Forgives was going to be a sequel, or in any way connected, to Drive. Director Nicholas Winding Refn creates a visually arresting film, but in the process arrests the narrative and characters to the point of creating a movie entirely stillborn. In its brief runtime, despicable characters do despicable things with little rhyme or reason other than vengeance and it’s hard to sympathize with anyone considering there’s little depth to their motives other than that lonely term. Julian (Ryan Gosling) is a drug smuggler by night and owner
MST3K star Kevin Murphy talks Rifftrax's Night of the Living Dead live show!
Audiences may be unfamiliar with actor Kevin Murphy’s face, but if you’re a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 you can’t forget his voice in the character of the wisecracking robot, Tom Servo. After MST3K ended its run in 1999, the trio of alums Murphy, Michael J. Nelson, and Bill Corbett started Rifftrax. Rifftrax’s goal is simply “We don’t make movies…we make movies funnier,” and they do! Any movie is up for lampooning, and they’ve tapped into a market with old fans of MST3K continuing to love their shtick, and new fans enjoying their skewering of popular fare. In honor
To Be Or Not to Be (1942) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: You'll Get a 'Terrific Laugh' Out of This One
Ernst Lubitsch and the Criterion Collection are a match made in comedic heaven.
In 1942, the US hadn’t entered World War II and audiences were unaware of the horrific monster that Adolf Hitler would be identified as. Director Ernst Lubitsch was aware of the chaos going on in Europe and documented it - while still remaining comic and romantic - in his play within a play (or in this case film), To Be or Not to Be. Upon release it was a failure (only getting an Academy Award nomination for Best Music…seriously?), and only now has it come to be identified as a slice of life for the Europeans while opening up American
A quite, methodical exploration of man's ability to connect with each other.
Director David Gordon Green has been hot or cold with the critics (and audiences the last few years). After creating breakout indies that garnered attention, Green turned to comedy with the stoner hit, Pineapple Express. After that it was back-to-back duds with Your Highness and The Sitter. Audiences were starting to wonder if Green’s past success was a fluke. Prince Avalanche is a return to the quiet, methodical independent spirit that Green started out with; and while it’s anchored by two distinctive performances by Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, its pace can start to feel incredibly sluggish. If you can
A fun read, but I wouldn't consider it a worthy collection of reviews.
I’m a fan of “worst movie ever” books because someone’s definition of worst isn’t always yours. On top of that, it’s always fun to read someone discussing a movie that has an asinine plot or terrible actors because no one sets out to direct a terrible movie, right? Author Phil Hall has a conversational and witty writing style, and he uses that to strong effect in his book, The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time, recently released by BearManor Media. What’s at odds with his writing style is the various moments that feel as if a first-time writer wrote this;
Lord of the Flies (1963) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Definitive Version of a Classic Text
The Criterion Collection adds a bevy of compelling bonus content on top of a fantastic adaptation of William Golding's novel.
I vividly remember the Lord of the Flies unit in my seventh grade class. I’m not sure if my seventh-grade mind could truly take in the myriad themes and motifs within William Golding’s book; my disappointment stemmed from not being able to watch the film version. There are two adaptations of Golding’s book, one being the 1990s version (banned in my classroom due to its R-rating) and this 1963 adaptation (which we didn’t have time to watch). Thankfully, the purer adaptation has received the Criterion treatment and has hit Blu-ray in a beautiful transfer that will hopefully inspire a legion
A piece of Americana that questions and condemns the media.
The Criterion Collection presents a slice of American history with director/cinematographer Haskell Wexler’s, Medium Cool. Filmed against the background of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Medium Cool tells a shrewd and haunting condemnation on media interaction. In a time where our every thought is broadcast to the masses, Medium Cool explores the idea of documentation itself, and where social responsibility begins and ends. While the narrative isn’t nearly as fascinating as the real-life footage Wexler caught, Criterion has presented an equally fascinating presentation of footage. If you’re a history buff, particularly of our nation’s history, you’d do well to check
An engaging plot and interesting characters elevates this about standard teen films.
I enjoy being surprised at a well-done movie, particularly if it’s in the squalid, increasingly boring teen genre. Having never read the original source material from which Beautiful Creatures is adapted from, I had some reservations about its story involving witches and forbidden love. Thankfully, my hesitations were unfounded and Beautiful Creatures is one of the few enjoyable teen films out there today (sadly, its bombing at the box office will put the kibosh on future installments). While the Blu-ray is beautiful, you need to enjoy the movie itself because the bonus features are fairly weak. It’s not a huge
A harsh story told in the sweetest way possible.
I’m a young, 20-something female who loves to read. One can say that based on my gender I’m the perfect demographic for a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. To that person, I’d say that that is a horrific misconception as I generally abhor all things Sparks-related. And yet, I can’t stop myself from seeing what atrocities Hollywood perpetuates with the author’s material. There are some decent Sparks adaptations out there (The Notebook continuing to be the high point), but the latest film, Safe Haven, is bottom of the barrel. The movie looks good, and the leads are likable, but the script is
Despite a strong structure, and a few throwaway gags that hit, the movie commits the worst sin of being flat-out boring.
With Scary Movie 5 coming out this weekend, it would make sense to review that other spoof movie that is set for release on home video this month: Marlon Wayans’ A Haunted House. A Haunted House came out in January of this year, and I believe is actually better (and I use that term very, very loosely) than the last three Scary Movies combined. A Haunted House has structure, and doesn’t spend time throwing pop culture references into things, making it last far longer than a movie filled with overdone Britney Spears jokes. Unfortunately, for the few things A Haunted
Don't let the title fool you, there's an interesting biography here, just not on the people you expect.
The Redgrave family never liked to be referred to as “a dynasty,” as it invoked images of power, and yet author Tim Adler proves in his biography The House of Redgrave that they were. The three generations of Redgrave’s, and by extension the Richardson’s, are an acting powerhouse who have awards in every ceremony both here and abroad. The book is interesting, but at times can leave more questions than answers, specifically about the progenitor of the Redgrave dynasty, patriarch and actor Michael. The title is highly misleading, spending far too much time on director Tony Richardson, and at times
If you liked the other BBC dramas out there, than you’ll like this.
The BBC has created a steady output of television shows that have strong dramatic tension paired with worthy scripts and fantastic actors. Their latest series, Ripper Street, is good, but it’s a wanting in certain areas. Despite having a phenomenal trio of leading men, held together by Pride and Prejudice star Matthew Mcfadyen, the similarities to other movies and television shows leaves the plot wandering to differentiate itself for longer than necessary. Once things get into a groove, the plots are fairly standard, but are elevated by the acting. The officers of H Division have been hoping to move past
It wasn't surprising that screenwriter Mark Boal's script for Zero Dark Thirty didn't nab the coveted statuette at this year's Academy Awards; sad, but not surprising. Thankfully, you can read that riveting script and see what the Academy didn't honor in HarperCollins print of the Zero Dark Thirty screenplay. If you're a fan of movie scripts, like myself, or want to see what everyone was freaking out over when the movie first came to theaters, I can't stress enough that you should pick up a copy. Additional items in the book keep this from being just a slim, bound script,
Karloff is more than make-up in three interesting movies from Warner Archive Collection.
Warner Archive continues to put out intriguing DVD collections meant to entice die-hard fans. Their latest, the Boris Karloff Triple Feature, is a three-disc set that might shock casual Karloff fans because he isn't playing a horror icon. Yes, Karloff does wear heavy make-up in one (although it's not exactly PC), but the collection is meant to emphasize the range the legend had, but didn't always get the chance to show. The movies are short, but the lack of bonus material and overall quality of the films themselves might turn off casual viewers. Thankfully, the Warner Archive creates these sets
A story meant to be heartfelt only frustrates with its all-white cast and manipulative storytelling.
I’m going to be incredibly blunt in this review: I hated The Impossible. It’s been described as realistic, moving, and life-affirming. I counter that with words like manipulative, bloated, and shameful. Actress Naomi Watts is nominated as a Best Actress contender for this film, and to that I ask: Was Nicole Kidman’s role in The Paperboy too good? I need to actually explain why I hated this film right? Okay, here goes. The Impossible depicts the events of the 2004 tsunami that decimated Thailand, Indonesia, and other locations in the Indian Ocean. Maria and Henry Bennett (Watts, Ewan McGregor) have
Star Matthew McConaughey gives a frightening performance in a film that tests your will.
The NC-17 is coming back with a vengeance between this year’s Killer Joe and last year’s Shame. Killer Joe itself is an interesting film in that one scene is all that pushes the limit over into the taboo rating, but boy does that scene stick with you. The entire film is gritty, brutal, Southern-fried crime film with some strong performances, but none better than Matthew McConaughey who is nothing short of terrifying as the title character. Take heed, Killer Joe is not for the faint of heart. It’ll hook into you and refuse to let up till the very end.
How can a film about a murder be so darn delightful?
In the opening moments of Richard Linklater’s film Bernie, the title character played by Jack Black says, “You cannot have grief tragically becoming a comedy.” An ironic statement since that’s all Bernie deals in; the blending of the tragic with the comic. Bernie is a consistently funny murder story detailing a small Texas town, and the nicest man who ever committed murder. Remarkably unbelievable, uproariously funny, and with the best performance from Jack Black ever, be sure to seek out this gem of a black comedy. In the small Texas town of Carthage, Bernie Tiede (Black) is the nicest assistant
Magical realism and an astounding child actress do little to elevate a non-existent plot.
I hate to be the one person to continuously chastise films that are receiving critical acclaim, but it feels as if certain films get a huge wave of people wanting to jump on the bandwagon, and those who disagree are labeled inferior for “not getting it.” Beasts of the Southern Wild is receiving that treatment currently as people scramble to decide where it will land come Oscar time. Recently, the acting from the movie is being praised through several Critics’ Choice Award nominations. And yet, I don’t understand the hype. Yes, the performance from child actress Quvenzhane Wallis is fantastic,
Ruby Sparks has some light, but ends up being a dark reiteration of tired tropes.
Ruby Sparks should have been a home-run film considering it’s directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris of Little Miss Sunshine fame. Unfortunately, the whimsy of that previous film isn’t necessarily found in their follow-up. The first half of Ruby Sparks is a fun romantic comedy focused on following a writer’s hunt for inspiration and the literal muse that develops. The second half becomes a turgid and dark film that seems to have a bizarre message about control that isn’t given proper consequences. The acting is good, but for a film that starts out as a grown-up romantic comedy, it
Did yours make the list, Honey Bunny?
What can be said about Pulp Fiction that hasn't been written since the film's release in 1994? With that, I didn't want to necessarily do a typical review citing the things I liked and disliked as that's been done before. I wanted to go back and count down the few things that I've loved about the film since I was a child. Yes, my mother was cool enough to let me watch Pulp Fiction when I turned 14, and I adored it. If I could go back in a time machine, these are the five things a 14-year-old me would
It's French, it's subversive, it's not for the average film buff.
I probably shouldn't have jumped at the first opportunity to review a film like Weekend (or Week End as it appears on IMDB). Despite being a classic film blogger/fanatic, I'm not well-versed in French films, nor have I see any Jean-Luc Godard films prior to this (although I have seen a few Fellini films). With that, I was able to appreciate what Godard placed upon the screen, and even though I didn't understand the logic at times it was still a surreal and intriguing experience. Thankfully, the Criterion Collection has assembled a medley of bonus features that go a long
Be sure to add Disney's latest series to your DVD library.
In 2009 ABC put out a Christmas special that blended the wit and animation of Pixar with the humor and heart of a Charlie Brown special. Disney’s Prep & Landing has become a Christmas staple in my house, alongside its equally good (although not nearly as perfect as the first) sequel Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice. Thankfully, families won’t have to keep going back to their TIVO to replay a recorded copy as Disney has recently put out the Prep & Landing: Totally Tinsel Collection that not only has both specials, but additional “stocking stuffers” that add to the
A haunting, and interesting subject gets mired down by the director Carol Morley.
I applaud director Carol Morley for what she's crafted with her documentary Dreams of a Life. The story of a forgotten body in a flat opens up the exploration of the beautiful, but oddly mysterious, life of a woman who should have had it all. Told through documentary interviews and filmed re-enactments, Dreams of a Life presents an incomplete look at a woman whose life leaves more questions than answers. The issue is Morley doesn't seem to know where her story's going. Interviews appear to repeat, the interviewers are never named so you have little idea of times and connections
The film loves its pretty cast but forgets it has a story to tell.
Director Amy Heckerling shaped my adolescence, as I'm sure she did many girls. Her two biggest films to date, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless, have been led to millions of dollars and a steady following. Unfortunately Heckerling hasn't been able to recapture that the former glory she felt in the 1990s, nor has star Alicia Silverstone. So I guess it's only appropriate the two try to recapture lightning in a bottle with Vamps; a vampire movie desperate to remake Clueless in its own image. While the film is fun at times, and loves the vampire genre, it never