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
Recently by Kristen Lopez
From the Tudors to terror, actress Sarah Bolger shines as an unhinged babysitter.
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
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