A lonely, dowdy, middle-aged woman lives in a small seaside village in rural Russia. She has no friends, her coworkers are excessively cruel, and she lives with her religious and superstitious mother. Life for her, in a word, is depressing. Then she grows a tail. A large, long, fleshy rat-like tail. Zoology, the second film from writer director Ivan I. Tverdovsky, is in search of a metaphor. Its fable-like structure and the fact that it's a movie about a woman growing a flipping tail makes us search for allegory, to find some meaning in its story. But the film never
Recently by Mat Brewster
A grow woman grows a tail, but what does it all mean?
This week's pop culture consumption includes some classic films, some modern films, more Doctor Who, and a video game from my youth.
Last week, I feared I was going to get sick like the rest of my family, which put me to bed earlier than usual and kept me from consuming as much pop culture as I normally do. That sickness never came to pass (keeping fingers crossed, continuously knocking on wood) and this week saw me watching a slew of movies, some great, some not so much. So lets get started. Casablanca I cannot remember the first time I watched Casablanca. It seems to have always existed in my memories. It's not that I watched it at a really early age
Three of Romero's earliest films get a nice boxed set.
Made on a minuscule budget and featuring no-name local Pittsburgh actors George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead became a huge worldwide success, essentially invented the modern zombie craze, influenced countless horror films, and is now in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. Not wanting to be pigeonholed as just a horror/zombie director, Romero branched out making a variety of films before returning to the zombie well in 1978 with Dawn of the Dead. Three of those films (There’s Always Vanilla, Season of the Witch, and The Crazies) are included in a new boxed set from
This week brings us a surprising number of horror films plus some cool concert videos, Doctor Who, and some cute cats.
I’ve loved movies for as long as I can remember. My mother tells the story of the first time I went to the cinema. I was maybe five or six years old at the time. I saw in the front row with my brother and cousins, but I kept walking back to where my mom was exclaiming how excited I was and how magical being at the moves felt. I no longer sit in the front row but movies are still magic. I’ve written plenty of times in these pages about how I’m also a big fan of horror films.
Round up the usual suspects and come watch the greatest movie ever made on the big screen.
At lunch when I told a friend of mine that I was going to go see Casablanca on the big screen, I could barely contain my excitement. When I told him it was my favorite movie, he, in all sincerity, asked why. He liked the movie, sure, but it was a long ways from his favorite movie so he wondered why it was mine. Genuinely confused as to how anyone could not love Casablanca as much as I do, the only answer I could come up with was, “because it's awesome”. And it is. But now having watched it again,
I've never watched a movie so long and so dull in which so very little happens.
After the enormous success of Gone With The Wind producer extraordinaire David O. Selznick was looking for another epic melodrama to make. This was 1944. The world was at war and Hollywood loved to make movies about it just as much as audiences loved watching them. But war movies with their big sets and action sequences were expensive. Selznick came upon an idea - everybody was making movies about the boys overseas fighting, why not make a movie about those they left behind? He found a book by Margaret Buell Wilder in which a wife writes a series of letters
I'm enlisting a little help this week, and away we go.
Sickness has been passing through my family. Both my parents got crazy sick a couple of weeks ago. Then my wife got a bad cold earlier this week and now my daughter has been running a fever the last couple of days. I fear I am next. Every little cough or sniffle I get freaks me out. I’m guzzling orange juice and eating zinc tablets like they were candy. It's also put me in bed earlier than normal in the belief that more rest might keep me from getting really sick. This in turn has meant less late-night movie-watching, but
Never trust a movie by its poster, Nightkill is neither sexy nor scary.
Intended to be Jaclyn Smith’s break-out role into movies (this was was right in the middle of Charlie’s Angels mania), Nightkill instead went almost straight to TV (after a very, very limited theatrical run) where it died a quick death. One look at its lurid poster featuring Jaclyn Smith naked in a shower while a sinister-looking shadow comes in behind her or the cast list featuring Robert Mitchum and Mike Connors (fresh in the middle of his popular Mannix role) and you might wonder why its taken so long for it to come to home video. After watching, I have
This week's new releases include animated anthropomorphic autos, a boxed set of DC animated movies, a boxed set inside a plastic head, and more.
I've been obsessed with golems since I first read about them in Michael Chabon's novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I don't remember much about what that story but the idea of a golem, a creature made of clay who comes to life, stuck with me. Golems are a part of Jewish folklore. They are made of any inanimate object but usually it's mud or clay. They are not sculpted well, more like clumped together as made by a child and given life. They can be creatures of good, but in the best stories they turn evil and
It's a good movie, just not Pixar good, which disappoints.
In discussions about the best Pixar movies, Cars always comes up short. It's not that its a bad film, but it simply doesn’t compare to the very best of what Pixar can do. It has none of the heart of the Toy Story films, or the inventive storytelling of Wall-E, nor the thoroughly compelling genius of Inside Out. It's got some great visuals and its a lot of fun to watch. It's a good, solid family entertainment. But when it comes to Pixar good just isn’t enough for some people. I like it more than most but it's definitely second-tier
This week's cool things include replicants, man-eating plants, mind hunters, and more.
My wife and I are not party people. We are much more comfortable sitting at home, watching movies, playing games, or reading. But once a year we throw a great big pumpkin-carving party. We invite all of our friends over. We make big batches of soup and chili. I make a special Halloween playlist. We decorate the house. We go all out. Except for this year. I don’t know if it was the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having all this Autumn or that I’ve been really busy at work or what, but this year I just wasn’t feeling it.
A fun space adventure comic that looks like Star Trek but doesn't exactly stay true to its roots.
I have no doubt that when he created Star Trek: The Original Series Gene Roddenberry was hoping for a smash success. But there is no way he could have known it would have spawned the enormous multimedia empire that continues to this day, some 51 years later. While The Original Series didn’t even manage to finish its “five-year mission,” it did spawn an animated series, five other live-action TV series, six films starring the original cast, four films from The Next Generation, and three films in the rebooted series plus books, comics, magazines, games, and a cultural phenomena. The Original
This week's new releases include more horror films for Halloween, some packaged TV for Christmas, and a flopped Stephen King adaptation.
I’d call myself a casual Stephen King fan. I’ve read maybe half a dozen of his books and seen about as many of his movie adaptations. I’ve always liked him but considering how prolific he is as a writer, I cannot even began to call myself a true believer. Actual fans could argue all day over which of his many books are the best but the general consensus seems to be that his Dark Tower series is up towards the top. To call it an epic is to not understand who Stephen King is as an author. He’s written single
The best movie musical about a flesh-eating plant from outer space hits the big screen again for a limited engagement.
When I was in college, I worked for the university dinner theater. It was a small university and a small dinner theater with a very small storage space. Sometime before my time, they had launched a production of Little Shop of Horrors. They still had the giant foam-rubber man-eating plant from outer space. Because there was no place to store it during normal days, we just kept it in the auditorium, but when we were putting on a show, we had to carry its large, awkward-tohandle, and very heavy bulk through a small door and into one of the classrooms.
This week's cool things include Wonder Woman's creator, a Hitchcock comedy, and even stranger things.
Last week, I noted that I somehow managed to watch quite a few movies even though my in-laws were in town. Well, this week they left and I didn’t watch very many films at all. I spent a little too much time binge-watching a Netflix show to refresh my memory before watching Season Two. I did watch a couple of movies and read a couple of books so let;s get started. Stranger Things If I might be a hipster for a moment, I liked Stranger Things before Stranger Things was cool. Netflix, as is there way, just kind of put
Documenting the Newport Folk Festival at the height of the folk revival, Festival is a feast for music fans.
In the early part of the 20th Century, various folklorists, including John Lomax, wandered about the country documenting the songs of the people - folk music. They sought out cowboys and prisoners, former slaves and sharecroppers, and recorded them. In 1952, Harry Smith compiled his favorite songs from these recordings and created The Anthology of American Folk Music. This album reached the ears of folks like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger who recorded some of those songs and started the Great American Folk Revival which hit its peak in the early 1960s. In 1959, music promoter George Wein, who’d had
A fun read for the whole family.
When I last checked in with Little Orphan Annie (in Volume 10), she was busy fighting the war (World War II that is for those of you who don’t keep up with timelines of little red-haired girls in comic strips). With the war over, Annie spends the bulk of Volume 14 pursuing various business ventures, sparring with little mafia hoodlums, befriending a gypsy, taking on book burners, and having lots of other adventures. Created in 1924 by Harold Gray, Little Orphan Annie ran as a daily newspaper strip until its cancellation in 2010. At its height, it was one of
This week's new blu-ray releases include some really terrible (and terribly awesome) looking horror, the last of the Planet of the Apes trilogy, and more.
I've often wondered why I like bad movies. Not even bad movies, but bad horror movies, which are set apart on the bad-movie scale. Why do I enjoy watching people be torn apart in the most violent, gore-filled way? What makes a bloody decapitation or a close-up on a knife slicing the skin so much fun to watch? I abhor violence in real life but show me a man getting hacked to death on the big or little screen and I'm in my happy place. I don't have a good answer for that. Part of it is an appreciation of
Cool things this week include two remakes, Grateful Deed members covering the Beatles, Italian horror, and more.
My in-laws came in for a visit this week. They are lovely people and I always enjoy their time here, but it definitely changes the way I consume my pop culture. Normally, that means that I wind up watching a lot less movies as we tend to do activities or visit instead of turning on the TV. This week we kept ourselves pretty busy in the afternoons/early evenings but were wore out by the time I put the daughter to bed. Which meant we watched a movie pretty much every late evening. Let’s get to it, shall we? The Breaking
This week brings us a web-crawling superhero, a couple of Criterions, some raunchy ladies, and several nice boxed sets.
Towards the end of Captain America: Civil War, there is a sweeping scene in which Captain America and Black Widow prepare to train War Machine, Vision, Falcon, and Scarlet Witch to be new Avengers. It was a "passing of the torch" moment. Truth is, over the last decade and dozens of films. the old Avengers are getting, well, old. The actors are all getting tired of playing the same characters and I suspect many fans are ready to move on as well. Marvel has constantly been expanding their cinematic universe and it seems they are preparing to allow some of
An oddball mix of crime drama and horror (with heavy doses of slapsstick thrown in) make for an interesting mix.
As I have been watching and reviewing more and more Italian films, I have come to realize that I tend to lump a couple of genres in together. Certainly, I use "giallo" and "Italian horror" interchangeably even though they aren’t always the same thing. "Giallo" literally means “yellow” in Italian and comes from a type of cheap mystery novel published in Italy that came in a yellow cover. Many of those stories were made into cheap Italian films, which started as fairly straight forward crime thrillers but over time became more lurid and graphically violent with increasing horror elements. It's
This week's cool things include Italian horror, Brian De Palma horror, feminist horror, and a Jedi.
Hi, remember me? I’m your local writer who talks about new releases and cool things each week. Except for the last couple of weeks when I’ve been absent. A big thanks to Gordon for filling in. I won’t bore you with the details except to say it's been crazy in my real life with work, a busted computer and, well, memory lapses. Let's just say this Tuesday came and I actually thought I’d written a Pick of the Week until I realized that Baby Driver was out and I hadn’t mentioned it. Then I looked it up and I hadn’t
A loving, informative reading on the films of a Japanese icon.
You first notice the long, straight black hair. Then you see her body: thin, straight, erect. You look past the blade in her hand and gaze into those eyes. Those haunting, cold, beautiful, deadly eyes. This is Meiko Kaji, she’s a fanboy fantasy. A cult Japanese film star beloved by genre fans everywhere and muse to Quentin Tarantino. She starred in nearly 100 films in her long career but she’s best known for her role as the assassin in Lady Snowblood, the murderious Sasori from the Female Convict 701: Scorpion series and a rebel in the Stray Cat Rock films.
Almost nothing happens at a languid pace, but Rutger Hauer's performance is captivating.
An elderly, well-dressed, well-kept man (Anthony Quayle) walks down some steps to the banks of the Seine. There, he meets Andreas (Rutger Hauer), a younger, well-dressed but decidedly less-kept man who has clearly seen better days. The older man tells the younger about how he is wealthy but that upon reading about Saint Thérèse, he has decided to live a life of poverty and charity. He can see that Andreas has fallen on hard times and offers him 200 francs. At first, Andreas refuses, but then is persuaded. He is a man of honor and only takes the money as
Gore meister makes a film with an actual plot and social commentary, results are mixed.
If Mario Bava is the grandfather of Italian horror and Dario Argento artsy-fartsy daddy figure who brought giallo to the mainstream, then Lucio Fulci is the creepy uncle doing strange things in the basement and making all the ladies feel uncomfortable at the dinner table. I’ve only seen a couple of his films but they, and his reputation, declare that as a director he was more interested in bloodletting than story, he loved gore more than any pretense of depth. That might have changed in 1972 with his film Don’t Torture a Duckling. In it, he smooths the edges off
Italian crime series has grown more serious since the last time I checked it out, but it's still entertaining.
Detective Montalbano (Il commissario Montalbano) is an Italian crime drama set in the fictional town of Vigàta, Sicily. It is based upon a series of novels and short stories by Andrea Camilleri. Started in 1999 it has ran for eleven seasons. Each season normally consists of two episodes with a run time close to two hours making them more like individual movies than what you might consider a normal television episode length. Season 11 consists of Episodes 29 (“A Nest of Vipers”) and 30 (“According to Protocol”). It is brought to the United States by MHZ. The series protagonist is
October is here and with it comes a slew of new horror releases.
I love October. The long, sweltering days of summer are gone. The air is crisp and cool. Sweatshirts go back into the closet to be worn once again. The leaves start turning. The smell of burning wood in fireplaces and fire pits fill the air. It is a glorious time. It is the month of Halloween and with it scary movies. As you’ll see from the list of movies coming out this week, October means horror. For a genre fan like me, October is like Christmas. Surprisingly, my Pick of the Week isn’t supposed to be all that scary, violent,
An in-depth look into the Ghost in the Shell franchise.
Ghost in the Shell began life as a manga series that lasted from 1989 to 1997. In 1995, Marmoru Oshii directed the cult film of the same name based on the manga. From there came a video game, a sequel to the movie, a TV series, a movie (and more games) based on the TV series, another different TV series, then games and a move based on that series, and recently an American live action film. And now we have a new book that tries to understand this massive franchise by anime expert Andrew Osmond. It mostly covers the 1995
This week's cool things include Body Double, Cafe Society, Wilco, and more.
My wife had a birthday this week. I don’t want to complain that my wife’s birthday screws up my ability to consume pop culture, but it kind of does. Don’t get me wrong, if given the choice between spending quality time with my family and watching a show or movie, I’ll always choose the family (though if possible I try to enjoy the two things together) but when you are trying to write a weekly article on the pop-culture things you enjoyed this week, it's hard not to wish (just a little bit) that there was less cake and more
This week's new releases bring us a couple of Criterions, a couple of live albums, Texas football, and something scripted by Ed Wood.
David Lynch is one of the most fascinating directors working today. His films aren’t always good but they are always interesting. He creates nightmarish, surreal landscapes in which plot doesn’t always make sense and which leave themselves up for various interpretations. His career has taken all sorts of strange detours and loops. He’s made very personal, very experimental films; he’s worked on broadcast television; adapted popular science fiction novels; and made several things that were initially only released on his website. It's the sort of career that’s ripe for a good documentary. With any luck David Lynch: The Art Life
French crime series is enjoyable but never quite enthralls.
By my count there are at least 825,732.5 crime series currently running on television. In order to distinguish themselves, these shows need a hook, something to make them stand out. About half of them go with a brooding, sarcastic, and downright mean lead character, which doesn’t make them stand out at all. If your main character is going to be obnoxious, then I’ve got two rules. First, he (or she, but inevitably it's a he) needs to be a genius. He needs to be able to solve impossible cases using just his brain power. That gives the show a reason
Cool Things I (re)discovered this week include Swiss Family Robinson, E.T., Hawkeye, Lost at Sea, and Blow-Up.
I don't know about you but I spend inordinate amounts of time searching for something to watch. You will regularly find me standing in front of my movie shelves trying to decide which one I should put in. Or, as is the case more often these days, you’ll find me scrolling through Netflix or Amazon Prime trying to make that same decision. The perpetual question I must ask myself is whether I want to watch something new or that I have previously viewed. There is comfort in watching something again. Knowing what happens enables you to either catch things you
This week's new releases include a couple of DC superheroes, a really old Marvel one, plus Ken Burns in Vietnam, and more.
I like to think I was something of a feminist before I had a daughter. Certainly, I was for equal rights, equal opportunity, and equal pay before she was born, but now it's like all of that is in sharp relief. It's shocking to watch films and shows with my daughter and see how often women are either objectified on screen or have nothing more to do than be the love interest. Together, we’ve become huge fans of superhero movies but it's always been disappointing that the female characters in those movies are constantly relegated to the sidelines. Many others
See it again on the big screen, bring your family.
In the encyclopedia of 1980s movies, Steven Spielberg gets his own volume. No other filmmaker so fully exhibits what cinema was doing in that decade than Spielberg. He directed some of the most entertaining and popular films of the decade including E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and the Indiana Jones movies. As a producer he was, perhaps, more influential, putting his distinctive aesthetic on such films as Gremlins, Goonies, Poltergeist, Back to the Future and more. Films he had his hands on are quite simply the movies of the 1980s. He helped create and shape blockbuster cinema. HIs films would influence countless
Cool things I discovered this week include a new season of Top of the Lake, an old Doctor Who, and a red band Guillermo del Toro trailer.
I watched one movie every day in the month of August. This is quite unusual for me as I usually average about 15 movies a month. I’m back in my normal track this month as there is just too much good TV out there to only watch movies. So much TV that I made a pact with myself awhile back that I would not watch any new shows until I’d caught up with all the ones I’m currently watching. As you’ll see I’ve already broken that pact. Top of the Lake: China Girl Top of the Lake was originally intended
Mike Figgis' directorial debut is an effective stylish néo-noir (as long as you don't watch Body Heat right after).
Stop me if this sounds familiar. A regular, working-class schlub takes a job working for a guy with connections to gangsters. He meets a girl who works as an escort for a guy with connections to gangsters. They fall in love and hatch a plan to get from under the thumbs of guys with gangster connections. Mike Figgis debut film, Stormy Monday, owes a lot of debt to the countless noirs that came before it. But like the Godfather of Noir, Raymond Chandler, once said, “it aint the story you tell, but how you tell it.” Figgis tells his tale
This week's new releases include a superhero in his underpants, a bunch of classic Universal monsters, a not-so classic updating of the Mummy, and more.
One of the best, and most difficult things to do as a movie lover is to come to a movie clean, with no preconceived notions. To be able to watch a movie knowing nothing coming in is kind of marvelous. It is also a very rare occurrence. There is simply too much promotion for movies (at least the kind of movies that get shown around here) to go completely unnoticed. I subscribe to way too many entertainment sites and podcasts for me to not know anything going into a movie. Or I should say in order for me to watch
You haven't lived until you've seen Kirk scream "Khaaaaaan!" on the big screen.
Star Trek: The Original Series ran on television from 1966 to 1969. It was cancelled after its third season due to dismal ratings. Surprisingly after a few years in syndication, the show became a cult hit and then a cultural phenomenon. So much so that by 1979 Paramount Pictures was willing to spend $46 million on a movie based on the series. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a hit taking in $139 million, but because the high cost of making and promoting it, plus the expectations it would be a Star Wars-like blockbuster Paramount considered it a failure. It
Cool things this week include two neo-noirs, a classic Doctor Who, Close Encounters, and a Handmaid's Tale.
Just jumping right in... Close Encounters of the Third Time There is a scene relatively early in Close Encounters where an alien ship has landed outside a farmhouse in rural Indiana. The mother, panicked, is rushing about the house closing all the windows and locking the doors. Her son, just a toddler, opens the front door. We see nothing outside the door, just dazzling bright lights and then it cuts to a shot of the boy's face bathed in light, full of wonder. In a sense, that one moment exemplifies the entire film, maybe even Steven Spielberg’s entire career. His
Season Three had some growing pains and is overloaded with characters but is still the shining star on The CW.
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Cinema Sentries with a free copy of the DVD reviewed in this post. The opinions shared are those solely of the writer. The Flash is by far my favorite of the CW superhero shows. I’m not alone in this as it routinely beats all the other super shows in ratings. For good reason too, it's action packed, has a great cast of characters, it generally nails its tone of lighthearted action adventure with a dash of romance, and is a joy to watch. Grant Gustin brings an innocence to Barry Allen/the Flash, along with
Collecting the entire franchise together for the first time in one cheaply made box.
Take a moment and conjure up some images of horror-movie icons. Likely you’re picturing Jason’s hockey mask, or Freddy Kreuger’s knife fingers. If you are a little older, you might envision Frankenstein’s Monster or Count Dracula. Younger, and you’re imagining the Scream mask or that creepy little puppet from the Saw movies. Think a little harder and eventually you’ll remember a shiny metal ball drilling into someone’s skull. Phantasm’s little ball of death might not be as iconic as some of the above monster’s but it's pretty close. Call it second-tier horror iconography. Made in 1979, Phantasm never drew the
This week's new releases include a new season of The Flash, an old Hitchock plus Scarlet Johansson getting raunchy, and Pablo Escobar being bad.
The more films I watch by Alfred Hitchock the more I’m convinced of his genius. He might have called himself the Master of Suspense but really he was the true master of pure cinema. He used all the tools of his trade - lighting, music, editing, etc. to tell his stories as only can be told in the movies. Francis of Assisi is supposed to have once said “Preach Jesus, and if necessary use words.” I don’t know how Hitch felt about Jesus but he made great movies and only used dialogue when necessary. I first watched Rebecca at a
Five cool things this week include seeing Castle in the Sky on the big screen, the entire Phantasm series on the little screen plus Arrow Video's release of Re-Animator, and the comics Paper Girls and The Boys.
As a semi-professional movie reviewer (meaning I get some free perks, but not an actual pay check), I try to find a balance between the things I agree to write about and the things I simply want to enjoy. Sometimes, those things are one and the same. Other times, I find myself carefully watching some god-awful thing pencil in hand, taking notes because, well, that’s what semi-professionals do. This week provided me with a little of both. Castle in the Sky One of those perks is getting press passes to various Fathom Events. Recently they’ve been showing Studio Ghibli films
Arrow Video's remastered version of this cult classic is loaded with extras, making it a must-have for fans.
Anxious people pound on a door at the Institute of Medicine in Switzerland shouting for Dr. Gruber. When they hear manic screaming on the other side, two armed guards break the door down. They find Gruber lying on the floor, head bloated and discolored as Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) desperately holds on to him, shouting that he cannot leave but must make notes about his experiment. When accused of killing Gruber, West counters with “I gave him life.” Much later a re-animated, decapitated corpse holds its own head between the legs of a tied-down, completely naked, and very much alive
This week brings us two series from DC, plus pirates, rippers, and spies with flowered underwear.
It is easy to think that Marvel beats DC when it comes to the whole cinematic universe thing. Certainly, they have created a more cohesive landscape for which to play. Their theatrical releases pretty seamlessly come together to form one larger mosaic. The Netflix series do the same and while they don’t really interact with the movies, they’ve done a nice job of keeping them in the same universe. DC however is a bit of a mess in this regard. The movies have done a decent job of blending together the various characters (we’ll see how well they really put
The first Studio Ghibli film is a delight for all ages.
Made in 1986, Castle in the Sky was the first Hayao Miyazaki film released under the Studo Ghibli label. It contains his signature style and themes including man’s relationship to technology and nature, and the bond of childhood. Fathom Events in conjunction with GKids presented the film in theaters across the nation on August 27 and is replaying it on August 28 & 30. Unlike a lot of his later films, Castle in the Sky starts off with a big action sequence. Muska (Mark Hamill), a government agent, has abducted Sheeta (Anna Paquin) in order to steal a magic crystal.
Cool things this week include new trailers for Suburbicon and The Punisher, plus Hopscotch, Married to the Mob, and The Love of a Woman.
Another week, another five cool things. The eclipse dominated the headlines this week. I didn't have any special glasses but my wife made one of those homemade viewers out of a cereal box. Then my neighbor let me borrow his welding shield. Not sure if that's an approved way of viewing or not. I guess you'll find out next week if I call out sick due to blindness. Until then here's five cool things I consumed this week. Hopscotch I had never heard of this spy caper until last week when I caught sight of it in my Pick of
A simple story told really well.
Marie Prieur (Micheline Presle) is young, pretty, and ambitious. After many years of hard work in school, she secures a position as the doctor of a small island village of the coast of France. She befriends Germaine Leblanc (Gaby Morlay), the local school teacher, but struggles connect to anyone else. At first, most of the other villages bristle against a new doctor who is so young and a woman, but they slowly warm to her kindness, knowledge, and skill. Eventually she meets André (Massimo Girotti), a handsome construction foreman, temporarily on the island building a fog horn. It takes him
Obscure '80s horror has more in common with European films than your typical slasher flick, but never quite manages to terrify.
Two overworked and over-stressed couples take off for a weekend retreat on a secluded island for a little rest, relaxation, and maybe a little fishing too. There’s Kay (Sarah Kendall), a surrealist artist who has been having nightmares about a sadistic killer, and her husband David, a doctor who tries to be supportive but is growing increasingly tired of her hysterical paranoia. Her brother Eric (Frederick Flynn) was the one who thought a vacation might do Kay some good. He brought along Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook), who can’t seem to do anything but complain. At first, nobody takes Kay’s delirium’s seriously,
A very full week brings us superhero galore, zombies, Deadites, punks, and much more.
Almost a year ago to the day, I made Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season my Pick of the Week. I noted then my great fondness for the Evil Dead movies and my great excitement over the new series. I also noted that by the time the Blu-ray was hitting the store shelves I’d not yet seen the entire series. Well, Season 2 has now hit the shelves and while I’ve watched a few more episodes of Season 1, I’ve still not made it all the way through. I like the show, I really do. It is a
No matter what they paid "Screaming" Mad George for the practical horror effects, they got their money's worth.
A quick look at our recent history will show plenty of animosity towards the wealthy, the upper classes, and high society. From the Occupy Wall Street movement to Bernie Sanders-style socialism, thousands of people are lining up to protest with cries of “Eat the Rich!” But what if the rich weren't just greedy bastards taking from the poor to make themselves unfathomably more wealthy? What if they truly were evil. What if the rich ate us? Director Brian Yuzna’s 1989 film Society has something to say about that. Young, pretty Bill (Billy Warlock) comes from a wealthy, elite family but
This week's cool things include Star Wars, the 50th anniversary of a classic, a Norwegian crime novel, and more.
After a long day of work, I typically want to do nothing but lay on the couch, watch a movie, and relax. Last week with the wife and child away, that’s pretty much what I did. It was kind of awesome. And yet there is a realization that this is not the healthiest way to live. It is certainly not the best way to raise a child. With the family back this week and with school starting up again, the wife and I created little nightly schedule that attempts to limit the amount of television in our lives. We have
Similar to The Wire, but with terrorists.
The Bureau is a French geopolitical thriller from Canal+ brought to the U.S. by the SundanceTV. It concerns the inner workings of the DGSE (which is France’s equivalent to the CIA). It is a densely plotted show that weaves multiple storylines together with over a dozen regular characters. It is probably easiest to compare it to Homeland, but I’d argue it shares more DNA with The Wire. Like Homeland, it deals with escalating terror threats from the Middle East but where Homeland tended to jump the rails (and eventually the shark) in its never-ceasing need to raise the stakes (and
This week's new Blu-ray releases include the new Alien film, an update on old Archie, a couple of Criterions, and more.
In 1979, Ridley Scott directed Alien a near perfect blend of science fiction and horror and one of the greatest films ever made. Seven years later, James Cameron’s sequel Aliens amped up the action and defined that genre. Two more sequels found diminishing returns. The lesser said about the Alien vs Predator franchise the better. In 2012, Scott returned to the series with Prometheus a sort-of prequel. While I enjoyed it more than most, it is still a very flawed film. I can’t say that Alien: Covenant was a return to form, because it's riddled with problems, but definitely goes
Don't miss your chance to see this classic film on its 50th anniversary on the big screen.
As the 1960s began to close so did the Hollywood studio system. The days when studio heads like Jack Warner could make or break its stars and dictate how they behaved and what movies they made were coming to an end. So too was the Hayes Code with its old-fashioned moral rules about sex and violence dying out. Warren Beatty, who was already a star in 1967, foresaw the dying of the old studio system, produced and starred in Bonnie and Clyde which helped usher in New Hollywood with its new European style and an excess of on-screen sex and
This week's five cool things include an atomic Charlize Theron, Christopher Nolan's war film, a haunted house, and more.
My wife took my daughter to Kentucky to visit her family this week. As anyone who has been in a long-term relationship can tell you, sometimes it's nice to be left alone. I love my family dearly and now that I’m at the tail end of their absence, I miss them madly, but it's been kind of cool to relive my bachelor years. For me, this has mostly meant watching lots of movies and TV shows. In the nine days they’ve been gone, I’ve watched 11 movies and caught up on about half a dozen shows. Here's five of them.
A pretty light week brings us an Ernest Hemingway adaptation, an Arthurian legend from Guy Ritchie, and more.
Ernest Hemingway is one of my all-time favorite writers. He had a way of cutting out all the flab from his stories, getting right down to the bone. Yet for all his spare masculinity, there is a tenderness to his stories, an emotional quality that you rarely find anywhere else. That style also lends itself well to the movies. Unlike a lot of writers, Hemingway never spent a lot of time with his characters inward thoughts, his stories are full of action verbs, of people doing things. It's easy to see why nearly all of his novels and short stories
After a nice vacation, I'm back with five cool things.
A big thanks to Gordon for handling some of my duties while I was gone. The family and I took a vacation in Glacier National Park. It is an astoundingly beautiful place and I highly recommend it to anyone who is able to go. It is also a really long ways from my Oklahoma home. It is roughly 1,700 miles one way from my house. That’s about 25 hours of drive time, not counting pit stops for gas, lunch and the occasional - my ass is hurting so bad I just have to get out and stand up for awhile.
Japanese horror doesn't so much scare, but fills you with unnamed dread.
Horror in the 1980s was all about the slasher - mindless monsters mutilating teenagers in desolate places. With Scream, released in 1996, director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson stabbed the slasher in its cold, dead heart. Scream (and its numerous sequels and countless inspired-bys) satirized slasher films with a self-aware sarcastic mocking. Around this same time, Americans first began discovering (and then remaking) Asian horror in general and Japanese horror in specific. These films neither relied on blood-filled violence (though certainly Japan has its fair share of gore maestros - the films of Takashi Miike come immediately to mind)
This week's new releases include some fun looking SteelBooks plus a Tom Hanks thriller, a couple of interesting documentaries and more.
I bought a house a year ago. It is the first house I ever purchased. I’ve always been a renter. Never really stayed in one rental for very long either. In the twenty years since my first apartment, the longest I’ve ever stayed in one abode is about two years. The thing about regularly moving to a new place is that you are constantly rearranging your furniture. What fits well in one rental house may not fit at all in an apartment. There is constant flux - expanding and contracting - from place to place. But now that I own
This week brings us another King Kong story, a couple of interesting looking TV shows, a weird-looking Tarkovsky film, and more.
What is it about a giant ape wreaking havoc that enthralls us so? Since his inception in 1933, King Kong has become one of the most iconic movie monsters of all time. That original film was a huge success and remains a paragon of early special-effects movies. It was rebooted by Dino De Laurentis in 1976 and again by Peter Jackson in 2005 and now he’s come to the big screen again with Kong: Skull Island. It gets props for at least not telling the exact same story as the original did, though its not exactly a fount of originality.
This week's cool things include Search Party, Castlevania, Stranger Things, and more.
As I’m desperately searching for cool things to write about each week, I’ve come to realize that while I’m discovering a lot of new TV shows I’m rarely completing them. Scroll through the archives and you’ll find me talking about starting a new show or a new season of an old show, but ask me if I made it through the season and likely I’ll be answering in the negative. Once I’ve written about something, I have to move on and find something else. This article would be boring if I just wrote about one show every week. Maybe someday
A very full week includes releases of a cool looking jungle movie, a Doctor Who spin-off, a Prime Suspect prequel, plus films from Arrow, Criterion and much more.
I’ve always loved jungle-adventure movies. There’s just something really exciting and mysterious about the jungle. It's exotic and foreign, beautiful and terrifying. It's teeming with life and can kill you in a heartbeat. There remain to this day parts of jungles that have never been fully explored. Think about that - we've had people on the moon and sent ships to the outer edges of the solar system, but never documented parts of our own planet. Setting a film inside that madness is thrilling. The best part of Raiders of the Lost Ark takes place in a jungle. King Kong
Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, a creepy Giger alien design, and Natasha Henstridge's breasts fail to make this sci-fi horror flick interesting.
Species hit theaters the summer after my freshman year at college. It was the only summer I came home for the entire break. It looked like a fun little sci-fi flick, so one random Sunday I decided to catch it at a matinee. My 16-year-old sister begged to come, so I let her and her friend Andrea tag along. I remember very little about the film except it was terrible and I felt very awkward sitting next to two teenaged girls while staring at Natasha Henstridge’s naked breasts. Shout! Factory is putting out a nice looking Blu-ray of the film
Cool things I consumed this week include the Cornetto Trilogy, Baby Driver, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver came out last week. I made plans with my cousin to see it on Tuesday afternoon. So of course I spent all day Monday watching the Cornetto Trilogy. What else is a guy supposed to do on a long weekend? I didn’t actually plan it that way, but after finishing up a little work Monday morning, I thought it would be fun to throw on Shaun of the Dead as a way to hype myself up for Baby Driver. When I finished it, the wife was happily sewing something and the daughter was busy upstairs playing
This week's new releases include Terrence Malick's latest, an obscure Japanese trilogy, a WWII drama, and more.
It is a grand July 4th weekend and everybody is out cooking burgers, drinking beer, soaking up radiation at the beach, and watching overly priced explosives light up the night. We might be going to the movies but nobody is interested in buying them to sit at home in our darkened living rooms. Or at least that’s the theory anyway. Not mine, mind you, as I’ve already watched a few DVDs this weekend and hope to watch a couple more before going back to work on Wednesday, but those who officially release Blu-rays to the chosen stores seem to think
Cool things this week include a Jumanji sequel, classic Doctor Who, a Death Note movie and more.
Another week, another five cool things. GLOW I spoke a couple of weeks back about the trailer to the new Netflix series GLOW and now it's finally dropped. I’ve only made it one episode in, but so far I’m digging it. They definitely get the look and feel of the early '80s just exactly perfect. Marc Maron is great as the down-on-his-luck producer trying to throw some misfit ladies together and make them wrestle for ratings. I’m not quite as sold on Alison Brie’s performance yet, but I’m rooting for her. It's not quite figured out its tone just yet.
New releases this week include a Trainspotting sequel, Alfred Hitchock's second film, some Power Rangers, and more.
The mid-'90s were a great time to be a burgeoning cinephile. Independent films were becoming mainstream, which meant you could catch really interesting, off-beat, non-studio films at the mall. Guys like Steven Soderbergh, Kevin Smith, and Quentin Tarantino were blowing up cinemas with films not like anything this young college student had ever seen before. Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting was a great shot of adrenaline (er, heroin?) right to the center of this movie lover’s heart. It was so stylish and entertaining. It used music to huge effect. And despite the dead, crawling babies and the diving into the worst toilet
My Neighbor Totoro kicks off Studio Ghibli Fest and it's as delightful as I remember.
There are no villains in My Neighbor Totoro. No violence either. There are monsters of a kind, but when Mei the precocious four-year-old meets the largest and scariest looking one, King Totoro, she laughs then bounces on his belly and takes a nap. The adults are all generous and good. The father is neither a bumbling fool, nor hateful and sarcastic like so many fathers in feature films these days, but rather thoughtful and kind. When his children tell him they saw strange little black things crawling around his house or a giant owl-like magical creature in the forest, he
More than just marching band.
Drum Corps International (or DCI as they are commonly called) was formed in 1972 as the non-profit governing body for drum and bugle corps in the U.S. and Canada (DCI is international much like how Major League Baseball's championship is the World Series though it only ever includes a tiny percentage of the planet). Every summer DCI hosts competitions throughout the United States, which concludes in August with the week-long DCI World Championship. For many years now the start of the season has begun in Indianapolis. Fathom Events hosted a live viewing of this competition last night in movie theaters
Cool things I discovered this week include La La Land, Catwoman comics, and a new Game of Thrones trailer.
I work from home which has all kinds of advantages. One being that I don't have a boss with prying eyes constantly checking out what I've got pulled up on my screen. Nerd that I am what I've got pulled up on one of my screens is usually a comic book. Whenever I need a short break I pull one up and read a few pages. Day after day, week after week I've been able to read quite a few comics. Got two read this week which is nice because the movie watching took a bit of a hit. But
This week brings us a whole bunch of horror, a poignant love trilogy and a lawnmower man.
Memory is a funny thing. I can remember very clearly the first time I watched Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. I remember the apartment we were living in, which dates the viewing to around 2006-2007. I remember that small living room. I remember watching it on the floor. I remember my wife sitting on the couch doing something else - probably grading papers or studying for an exam so she wasn’t paying close attention to the movie. It was the weekend, either Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. I remember all that but hardly anything about the movie
This Arrow Video set is the Blu-ray with excellent packaging.
While walking down the street late one night, Sam (Tony Musante), an American freelance writer living in Rome, spies a man and a woman struggling inside a modern art gallery. The woman is stabbed and the man, dressed in a black trench coat, black hat, and black leather gloves slips out the back. Sam rushes in to help her but is trapped between two automated sliding doors and is thus forced to watch helplessly as the woman, bloody and dying, screams for help. A passerby calls the police and they are able to resuscitate the woman before she dies. Sam
Cool things this week include Sherlock, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Panther, Shotgun Stories, David Sedaris, and the Rolling Stones.
Summer has come to Oklahoma which means it's hot. Damn hot. Too hot to do anything but sit inside and watch movies and TV, which is exactly what I did this week. So let's get to it. Sherlock: "The Six Thatchers" The newest season of Sherlock has been out a little while but I’m just now getting to it. It comes out so sporadically (its been on since 2010 but is only in its fourth season) that my memory of what happened last time is always fuzzy. This episode focuses on Mary, John’s wife, who I barely remember as a
This week brings us Keanu Reeves kicking butt once again, plus vampires, LEGO Batman, fairy tales, and more.
I mostly outgrew action films a couple of decades ago. I came of age during the late '80s/early '90s, which I’d argue created some of the very best and very worst action films. Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Van Damme, Seagal - if those names don’t mean anything to you, then you missed out on some kick-ass, utterly ridiculous action flicks. During those years, I watched nearly every action movie I could get my hands on. I loved every explosion, every increasingly gigantic gun, every dumb one-liner. But, as noted, at some point I got tired of them. Explosions became boring, car chases
Cool things this week also include Bruce Springsteen, The Godfather, American Gods, and Alfred Hitchcock.
I spent much of last week catching up on all the DC films to prepare myself for the release of Wonder Woman. We had planned to see it on Saturday, but we all got ourselves too excited and wound up catching it Friday night. More on that in a moment. The rest of the week was brimming with lots of cool things. So many in fact, I had to spend a little time narrowing down exactly what I wanted to talk about. Which is my definition of a great week. So let's get to it. Wonder Woman This is the
Georges Franju's follow-up to Eyes Without a Face is more atmospheric than actually scary.
Count Hervé de Kerloquen (Pierre Brasseur) is told he won’t live through the night. Before he expires, he slips into a hidden room deep within his castle. The next day, his seven cousins show up at the estate to claim their inheritance only to be told they will have to wait five years. While the doctors are sure he died during the night, no one can find his body so the law considers him only missing. The cousins cannot afford the upkeep on the castle and its many lands for that long so they launch a desperate search for the
The Godfather on the big screen - an offer you shouldn't refuse.
Some movies become so iconic they become transcendent. How many people have quoted lines like “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli,” or “…sleeps with the fishes,” or “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” and have never even seen the movie? Marlon Brando in his tuxedo, or with an orange in his mouth. A horse head in the bed and the gun behind the toilet. There are so many lines, so many scenes and images in The Godfather that everyone knows it regardless of whether or not they’ve seen the film. It's a movie that has seeped into
It's a packed week of new releases featuring a beauty, a beast, a cure for wellness, a young Pope, and much, much more.
Listen closely and you can hear a million voices suddenly cry out in anger that I did not choose Beauty and the Beast as my pick this week. I did consider it, but ultimately decided that I am simply not the fan it deserves. Were my wife writing this article, she’d be all over it, but as it's me and not her, I decided to go in a different direction. A Cure For Wellness is a psychological thriller from Gore Verbinski. An ambitious executive is sent to a mysterious “wellness center” in the Swiss Alps to rescue his company’s CEO
Still looking for that beaver-rape scene.
Similar to the Hays Code in the United States but officially state-sponsored, Sweden created a censorship board in 1911. Designed to keep anything offensive from perverting the young minds of moviegoers, it banned movies as diverse as Battleship Potemkin, Nosferatu, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Mad Max from being played in Swedish theaters. With the rise of home video, an influx of illegal bootleg VHS tapes began finding its way to film fans across the country. By the 1990s, a growing number of filmmakers and movie lovers began protesting this censorship by demanding that the law be thrown out. Writer
Cool things I consumed this week include Xenomorphs, superheroes, and Tatiana Maslany dancing in her undies.
I try to go into movies cold, knowing as little as possible about them. I might watch a trailer and read the blurb, but there is something really nice about letting a film unfold before you without expectation. That’s really hard to do in this age of anticipation. We are pummeled with so much information about a movie long before it opens I sometimes feel like I’ve seen it before I walk into the theater. This is especially true with big summer blockbusters and comic-book movies. This week I caught a couple of movies I’d been avoiding because the culture
A great release week includes, Martin Scorsese picking some world cinema, two silent films, a Christian movie, action, horror, and more.
It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was really less than two decades when me and my soon-to-be-wife were living in Bloomington, Indiana. Bloomington would normally be a small town in the middle of farm country were it not for the university. But getting an influx of 30,000 students every year plus all the professors, administration, and people needed to keep such a large institution running (not to mention all the various shops, restaurants, bars, etc. that feed off of it) turned what would have been a one-horse town into a rather metropolitan oasis. It wasn’t big enough (nor
A bizarre genre mashup gives plenty of '70s exploitation awesomeness, but very little werewolf.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it on a continuous loop until it stops being true: we live in a golden age of home-video releases - a veritable utopia for film nerds and collectors. It seems like every other week a new company pops up willing to release high-class editions of seemingly every film in every genre imaginable. Here at Cinema Sentries, our hearts just gush at the amazing bounty made available every Tuesday. Let us turn our thoughts over to one of our very favorite production companies - Arrow Video. They consistently do top-shelf releases of some of
Cool things this week include Alfred Hitchock's Sabotage, a new X-Men series, Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, Bloom County, and more.
Its been a tough week around here. Last weekend, the cat we’ve had for 12 years went into kidney failure, and we had to put her down. It was like losing a family member. My heart still aches. To clear my head and move away from those thoughts, I watched a lot of movies, read some funny books, and generally tried to be excited about pop culture. Here's the coolest five things I discovered this week. Sabotage I have this weird fear of early Hitchcock films. Mostly, this is due to my mother purchasing me one of those cheap-o boxed
Experimental French films are interesting conceptually, but hard sailing to watch.
Inspired by Jean Cocteau to become a filmmaker, Jacques Rivette moved to Paris in the 1950s began making short films and writing for the influential French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma. It was there he met Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Éric Rohmer, and Claude Chabrol. Together, they revived the critical consensus of American genre filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchock and John Ford and started the French New Wave (Rivette directed Le Coup de Berger, which is considered the first film in that movement). In early 1975, Rivette conceived of a film cycle consisting of four films using a made-up mythology
Grab a beer, jump in your vintage Trans-Am, and get ready for a hell of a ride.
When TCM host Ben Mankiewicz introduced Smokey and the Bandit, there was both a gleam in his eye and a smirk on his mouth. The gleam comes from his admission that as a 10-year-old boy in 1977 it was the first film that made him fall in love with movies. Moreso than even Star Wars, which also came out that year, it was the movie he watched over and over again, making him desperate to both be the Bandit and to see more movies just like it. The smirk comes from the knowledge that even on its 40th anniversary Smokey
This week brings us a new Wolverine, a great wall, a socially conscious horror film, a weird French boxed set, werewolves, thugs, midwives, and more.
I’ve written in these pages on several occasions about how I’ve evolved in my opinions of comic-book movies several times over the years. You can track my feelings pretty well with each X-Men movie. When the first X-Men film came out in 2000, I knew hardly anything about the characters. I was not yet into comic books in any real way, nor interested in the movies based upon them. But there was a lot of fanboy excitement about it (and it's interesting to think about how fanboy excitement has changed in the last 17 years - now you get non-stop
Ladies and gentlemen, the Grateful Dead...
Like America itself, the Grateful Dead were a great melting pot of cultures, genres, and styles. Take a close look at the songs they chose to cover in their 30 years of existence and you’ll see nearly every brand of American music of the last century. From Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Cannon’s Jug Stompers, the Reverend Gary Davis to Howlin’ Wolf, Bob Marley, Blind Willie Johnson, Leiber and Stoller, Martha and the Vanillas?, the Dead played jazz, folk, blues, rock and roll, Appalachian folk music, reggae, and everything in between. They took all those styles and more, blended
Cool things this week include Arrival, Burden of Dreams, Foreign Correspondent, Bob Dylan, and Blow Out.
It was a good week for movies in the Brewster house. I watched a couple of things I’ve been wanting to see for a long while and a couple of others I didn’t know I wanted to see until I sat down and watched them. There was a good comic book, too, and some really good music. I’ll hash it down to five cool things so let's get to it. Arrival Ever since I heard there was an alien-invasion movie whose hero was a linguist (played by the always wonderful Amy Adams), I knew this was a movie I wanted
A pretty slow week brings us zombies, mummys, Martians, Ozu and the return of Xander Cage.
When I was a boy, I was what they would nowadays call a gamer. It started with a little Texas Instruments device my father bought when I was maybe six years old. It had a little keyboard and a place to insert cartridges to play some very rudimentary games. A year or two later, we got an Atari 2600 and I was completely hooked. In 1985, the first Nintendo Entertainment System came out and I played it nearly every waking hour. My brother used to taunt me about it calling me a “Nintendo Nerd” or “NN” for short. He was
Cool things this week include the Hulk, Blade Runner, Midnight Special, a new Wolverine, more aliens, and the Grateful Dead.
My wife came down with something nasty last week. I’m sure I've complained in these pages about the numerous times my entire family was passing around The Crud a few months back. For awhile, it felt like we were experiencing the plague around here. We’ve had a few glorious weeks of good health of late so it was crushing to see her sick again. For awhile, it seemed like I was going to escape this round. Last Thursday, I started writing this article rejoicing that I had not gotten sick. Then I got sick. My lymph nodes swelled, the muscles
This week brings us Michael Mann's heist classic, girls in prison, serial killers, mutants and much more.
Though they’ve both delved into self parody over the last decade or two, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro will go down in history as two of the greatest actors to ever be filmed. Surprisingly, they’ve only appeared together on screen once (The Godfather, Part II doesn’t count as they don’t share any screen time) in Michael Mann’s 1995 thriller Heat. It's a great film with great performances all around. De Niro plays the mastermind of a professional heist crew that stick to a strict moral code. Pacino is the cop chasing him down. Though it has some nice action
A lesser known detective comic from the 1930s gets a fine new release.
I adored newspaper comic strips as I was growing up. My parents took in the Tulsa World, which was a morning paper, and the Claremore Progress, which ran in the afternoon. There was a lot of overlap in the two paper’s comics pages, but the Progress had a few strips that the World did not. My sister and I would fight over who got to read the World over breakfast and then again over who could get home the fastest and grab the Progress. I read almost all of the strips but my favorites were Calvin & Hobbes, The Far
Innovative science-fiction newspaper strip suffers from poor writing, but Gil Kane's art really shines.
In early 1977, right at the start of the cultural science-fiction boom of the late '70s, the newspaper syndicate NEA hired Ron Goulart and Gil Kane to do a daily Star Trek-like strip. They came up with Star Hawks about a couple of interplanetary peacekeepers policing the universe from the space station Hoosegow. Inventive for its use of a two-tiered format which made it twice as tall as the usual newspaper strip allowing Kane to create some really interesting artwork. Goulart is probably best known today for his histories of comic books and pulp fiction, but Kane is a legend
This week's new releases include a Studio Ghibli-esque animated film, the director's cut of Gene Siskel's favorite movie, a big boxed set of some cult classics and much more.
I’ve been writing this column for almost three years now. That’s roughly 156 picks of the week. Yet, I’m still not entirely sure why I pick some films. Or rather what is it that makes me (or anyone) think I’ll like certain films over others? Some weeks include films that I’ve seen and love. Some weeks have films released in special packages. But I’d say the majority of my picks are films that I’ve not seen but are very much interested in. The question becomes what makes me want to see one film more than another? What makes me pick
It will steal your valuable time.
Elio Petri’s 1973 film Property is No Longer a Theft is a political film (barely) disguised as a comedic thriller. Its messaging is so heavy-handed it nearly pummels you with ideology while neglecting to tell an interesting story. Total (Flavio Bucci) is a bank clerk who is (and the symbolism will escape no one) literally allergic to money - he has to wear gloves and is constantly scratching himself. Though he sees customers, such as the rich butcher (Ugo Tognazzi), come into the bank every day with loads of cash, he, himself, has none. Obsessed with the idea that property
Miike's wild, wooly action trilogy gets a disappointing release from Arrow Video.
Takashi Miike is an insanely prolific (and possibly just straight up insane) Japanese director. He has 102 directorial credits on IMDB since 1991. That’s nearly four film/TV credits per year. While he is mostly known for his extreme horror in the U.S. with secondary acclaim for his Yakuza films, he’s actually an incredibly diverse filmmaker having made comedies, dramas, science fiction, historical epics, and even a family film or two. His best films are both widely loved and criticized for their use of graphic violence and perverse, often extraordinarily sexual sense of humor. Just to demonstrate how many films Miike
Cool things this week include new episodes of Fargo and Doctor Who plus The Graduate, a Stephen King adaptation and more.
Let’s just get to it, shall we? Here’s five cool things I discovered this week. Fargo: Season 3 I’ve not yet seen any of Season 3 of this FX show from Noah Hawley, but I absolutely adored the first two seasons so I’m pretty excited about it. This season is set in 2010, in and around St. Cloud, Minnesota. It stars Ewan McGregor (as twins!), Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Carrie Coon, and David Thewilis. I know nothing more about it, not do I want to. The great pleasure of Fargo is watching it unfold in unexpected ways. The Graduate The Graduate
A couple of not-so-classic comedy-horror films from the 80s get a magnificent release from Arrow Video.
Picture me: a pubescent boy, somewhere in the late '80s, wandering about the local video store aisles. A burgeoning horror fan, I’m checking out the cover art for all the films in the genre section. My mother was much more strict than my father when it came to renting films, so if I’m with her, I’m liking gonna have to move over to the comedies soon, but if it's just me and dad, I can talk him into the scary stuff. One weekend, me and the old man grabbed House, a movie whose cover features a totally rad-looking severed hand
This week brings us a new musical, an immortal monster, several Valerian Borowczyk films, a Japanese film about noodles, and more.
Every few years, it seems, Hollywood will make a new musical. It will catch on like gangbusters and a slew of think pieces will come out raving about how audiences are finally, once again, ready to enjoy musicals like they did in the old days. Then just as quickly it all dies down and we go back to watching another reboot, another sequel, another damn Transformers movie. La La Land is the latest musical in this feeble attempt to revive the genre. It stars Emma Stone as an aspiring actress and Ryan Gosling as a struggling jazz pianist. They fall
Here's to yo,u Mrs. Robinson.
Some movies are so iconic, so ingrained in the consciousness of culture that it feels like you’ve seen it even when you haven’t. The Graduate is one such film. I’d never seen it before this afternoon’s theatrical showing thanks to TCM and Fathom Events, but I could tell you what it was about, quote you some lines, and describe several scenes. Surely, everyone who cares about movies is familiar with that view of Dustin Hoffman between Anne Bancroft’s legs, can hum that memorable Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack, and remembers the "did I just see what I think I saw?" quick
Beautiful, but dull film by a director more noted for his controversies than his staid adaptation of classic novels.
For a film with “Sin” in its title that includes a nude woman on its cover and was directed by a man who once made a film featuring a giant phallus exuding copious amounts of seminal fluid, The Story of Sin is surprisingly chaste. That isn’t to say there isn’t plenty of nudity and sex in it, but that when those things occur, they seem so high-brow, so arty-farty that one can hardly be aroused by it. Whereas in some of director Valerian Borowczyk’s other films, he uses sexuality as a means to offend, here it's central to a much
Cool things this week include a book about film noir, Doctor Thorne, Blue Ruin, Robert Hunter and a new Star Wars Trailer.
If I spent most of last week preparing for my daughter’s birthday and the visitation of her grandparents, then this week was filled with the actual party and the actual grandparents. It was several parties, actually. Her birthday fell on Monday so we’d planned to do the partying on Saturday. Sunday was Easter so there was a lot of time spent negotiating with various parental units of her friends finding a time to party between egg-hunts, religious ceremonies, and other various goings-on. Eventually we settled on a time, a party was had, the friends who could make it came, and
A wonderful resource to understanding one of cinemas greatest genres.
Much like the Supreme Court with pornography, I find "film noir" difficult to define, but I know it when I see it. The term was coined by French film critic Niko Frank in 1946 and literally means “black cinema” but might more correctly be translated as “dark cinema”. It was used to describe the type of crime dramas that were popular during the '40s and '50s with its stark use of shadows and its bleak, dark themes. But exactly what "film noir" is can be as problematic to pin down as so many of the femme fatales that appear in
This week brings us a film about McDonalds, a Studio Ghibli TV movie, James McAvoy playing a bunch of different characters in one film and much more.
It is not exactly controversial for me to say I hate McDonald's. I’d go as far to say I loathe them. Their burgers are small and unappetizing. Their chicken is bland; their fish is gross. Even their fries - supposedly the one thing they do really well - I find rather boring, and too salty. Yet, I still occasionally eat there. When I’m on the Interstate, and hungry, sometimes I’ll stop at a McDonald's if there is nothing else at the exit. Or if one of their restaurants sit next to the hotel I’m staying at, I’ll walk over rather
This week's cool things include a couple of Criterions, a visit to Narnia, X-Men, and a great new podcast.
This week I spent a lot of time preparing for both my daughter’s birthday and the arrival of my in-laws for the same. This means there was a lot of house cleaning, party preparations and attempts at finishing some projects I started the last time they were here (finally got that kitchen mirror hung!) I still managed to find time to watch some movies, read some books and discover some cool things. L’Avventura Michelangelo Antonioni’s drama from 1960 is the sort of film where very little happens, but it's still enthralling. A group of rich, bored Italians take a boat
This week brings us NASA's untold history, a mad king, some nice-looking horror collections, and much more.
If you aren’t utterly amazed by space travel, then you aren’t paying attention - especially in the early days of NASA. They worked out ridiculously complicated math problems using a pencil and a slide rule. My phone has more computing power than their big mainframes did. Some of the people doing those calculations were young African American women. Hidden Figures tell their story. It stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae as the mathematicians. It's received some good review and has done well at the box office. I’m a sucker for heart-warming historical stories and this one looks
This weeks cool things include The X-Men, the New Pornographers, italian horror, a classic movie festival, and more.
Last week, I had a lot of fun with my new Amazon Fire TV, streaming shows I’d previously not been able to access with my old Apple TV. I did the same this week which was great, except when it comes to write a column about the new things I discovered this week and then I realize I probably shouldn’t talk about the same shows I talked about last time. Dear old Gordon is here to help with a great movie and a film festival he attends every year (which makes me insanely jealous each time). Here’s some cool things
This week brings us the latest Star Wars, a new Jim Jarmusch film, and a raunchy comedy.
I first saw Star Wars…well, I don’t actually remember the first time I saw Star Wars. That’s A New Hope I’m talking about. I was only one when it hit theaters so it wasn’t until it started showing on cable or home video that I first saw it. I do remember watching Return of the Jedi in theaters on several occasions and playing with all the action figures so by 1983, I was certainly a fan. My mother says that A New Hope used to run all the time on HBO way back when and that me and my brother
An extraordinary release of an extraordinarily weird movie.
In 2001, writer-director Richard Kelly created Donnie Darko, a film that is (among many other things) a nostalgic trip back to 1988. Now 15 years later, the film is itself viewed through its own sort of nostalgic lens. Released just over a month after 9/11, its specific brand of dark weirdness didn’t sit well with viewers at first. It bombed at the box office to put it mildly. It did well with critics and grew a cult following on VHS and DVD. It is now considered one of the better movies released that year. Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a
This week's cool things include the Filmstruck app, a Kurosawa film, a couple of shows I'm catching up on, and a new teaser trailer.
For my birthday last week, my wife bought me an Amazon Fire TV. We’ve had an Apple TV for several years and enjoyed it but it needed an upgrade and I decided to give Amazon a try. For obvious reasons, the Apple TV doesn’t support Amazon streams and since I’ve been an Amazon Prime member for awhile we were losing out on lots of interesting stuff. I could actually stream Amazon content from my iPad to the Apple TV but that's an extra couple of steps to take and my lazy self rarely went to the trouble. Here's five cool
Juvenile delinquency has never been this boring.
After directing some 65 industrial films and short documentaries for the Calvin Company, Robert Altman got his first real break from Elmer Rhoden Jr., a film exhibitor who wanted to break into producing them. In 1956, he hired Altman to make a juvenile-delinquency picture which he figured could make him some fast money. Altman wrote The Delinquents in five days, then scouted it, produced it, and filmed it in a matter of weeks. It cost about $63,000 to make and was shot in Altman’s home town of Kansas City. It looks, feels, and acts like an After-school Special written by
This week brings us a Martin Scorsese film about faith, some fantastic beasts, our own planet in HD, and much more.
In my very first Five Cool Things article, I was excited about the trailer for Martin Scorsese's Silence. I also noted that I had really enjoyed the book. What I didn’t mention was that my copy of the book had a bunch of pages missing. For the last 20 pages or so, every other pages was blank. It was a horrible way to finish what was really a very good novel right at its conclusion. I learned what happened at the end in my class and always meant to buy another copy, but never did. As I’ve surely mentioned numerous
Cool things this week include Legion, Alfred Hitchock, Better Call Saul, Cinema Paradiso, and Van Morrison.
I’m running out of interesting things to say in the intro to these things so lets just get to it. Here’s five cool things I consumed this week. Van Morrison - Moondance I’m very much a fan of Van Morrison’s music. I’d easily put him in my top 10 artists of all time list. Earlier this week, I realized that I’ve actually spend a lot more time with his bootlegs than I have with this actual studio work. This needs to be remedied so I’ve spent the last few days working my way through his discography. Released in January of
Supernatural mystery looks beautiful but loses itself in an unimaginative script.
Standing on a cliff above an old quarry two men, Proctor (Gabriel Cain) and Waterhouse (Ted Levine), pull two corpses out of their car and throw them over the edge. When the deed is done, Waterhouse points a gun at Proctor and tells him he’s no longer sheriff. Thirty years later, Sean (Ben Schneider) and sister Jake (Samantha Isler) stand on the same cliff daring each other to jump into the lake below. They agree to do it together but at the last moment Jake chickens out letting Sean fall alone. He never comes back up. Dig Two Graves links
The violent rise and horrible fall of an Italian crime family.
Contrary to what you might think having watched dozens of films and television series about the mafia, Rome was not controlled by the mob in the early 1970s. There were many small groups, or batteries as they were called, which committed low-level crimes, but no larger organization controlling it all. Romanzo Criminale, the Italian TV series that was a huge hit in its homeland and now makes its way to American home video via Kino Lorber, takes a fictionalized look at the real Magliana Gang that took control of Rome and ruled it for most of the '70s and '80s.
This week brings us a gangster flick from Ben Affleck, a disgusting one from John Waters, singing animals, and much more.
I’m a sucker for gangster stories. There is something utterly fascinating about people who push aside all of society's rules and take what they want for themselves. Gangsters are often not the smartest, strongest, or the best but rather they are the most willing to use violence for their own means. Most of us avoid trouble whenever we can so when someone comes along willing to openly commit violence the vast majority of people shirk away. Those who don’t get a beating. In real life, I find that sort of thing appealing, but on film it's really interesting. Dennis Lehane
A beautiful, loving tribute to the magic of movies.
Every year during the Oscars, my social media feed fills up with jokes about how often they are going to talk about how movies are magic. Every year the answer is “a lot.” You could make a drinking game of it. In the same way, awards shows, Hollywood in general and, honestly, cinema the world over, love movies about the movies. It can get a bit self-congratulatory as its basically people who make movies making a movie about how wonderful movies are. Yet, as a cinenephile, as a man who loves watching movies I kind of love it. Movies are
Cool things this week include Howl's Moving Castle, Snotgirl, the Hulk, and more.
It seems like every time I write one of these I’m making excuses. Someone in my family was sick, or I was busy at work, or I was sick, or I only watched bad movies, or my cat was sick. Sometimes, I’ve had to elicit help from my fellow Sentries. Sometimes, I’ve scoured the Internet the night before posting looking for something, anything cool. Well, this week we were all healthy, work was busy but not tragically so and I consumed lots of really cool things. So let's get started. Planet Hulk I’ve always thought Hulk was an uninteresting character.
One of those films that many people seem to love or hate.
Cinematic portrayals of the homeless tend to be unrealistic if not downright demeaning. When they are not brought out for cheap scares or cheaper laughs, they are all too often seen as depraved degenerates who need a white knight to save them. Or they are unheralded geniuses in need of someone to take their hand and guide them to proper society where they will find great success. Worst of all is when they are seen as the happy poor, noble savages who really have better lives than all of us because they don’t need so much “stuff.” Lovers on the
This week brings us Denzel Washington in a critically praised drama, Will Smith in a critically hated one, a sci-fi adventure with Chris Pratt and much more.
During that ridiculous let's-bring-in-a-tour-bus-full-of-common-folk-to-the-Oscars bit a few weeks ago, host Jimmy Kimmel asked one of the tourists who her favorite actor was. She pointed and simply said “him.” I turned to my wife and said, “It's Denzel Washington.” Of course it was. Everybody loves Denzel Washington. He’s one of the greatest living actors we have. He’s won all the awards. He’s beloved by just about everyone - men, women, African Americans, Caucasians, liberals, and conservatives alike. He happily mixes it up by playing in straight-up action flicks and small dramatic films. Last year, he was in both The Magnificent Seven
Good cast, terrible movie.
A good thriller can be a great many things: exciting, scary, gruesome, erotic, and even funny. The one thing they should never be is boring. Shut In is none of the things on that list, but it is boring. It spends the first hour or so developing characters and setting up its story in such a lazy, hodgepodge way that by the time something even remotely thrilling happens, I’d long since stopped caring enough to be scared. Mary Portman (Naomi Watts), a child psychologist, lives with her invalid son Stephen (Charlie Heaton) in an isolated house in rural Maine. As
Terrifically stylized anime asks deep questions about technology we're still trying to answer today.
In the near future, humans beings augment their bodies with mechanical and computerized parts. You can get hardened shells, robotic arms, infrared vision, and a computerized brain. These computers connect everyone to a vast electronic network. Some people forego human bodies at all and have their souls, or ghosts, connected to completely robotic bodies. Major Motoko Kusangi is one such creature. She works for Public Security Section 9, some kind of intelligence operation for an unnamed, probably Japanese, city. Initially, her team is after a vaguely evil foreign operative who is seeking political asylum but the film drops that plot
This week in cool brings us a Deadpool 2 teaser, Ghost in the Shell, All About Eve, and more.
I’ve been writing this column for a little while now so I’m getting pretty good at making little lists of the cool things I read, watch, and listen to, which makes this a lot easier to write. It's certainly easier than waking up Friday morning only to realize I’ve got a column to write and no memory of what I’ve consumed over the last seven days. Even with the little lists, there are times, like right now, where I look at all the pop culture I’ve engaged with in the last week only to realize I found very little of
The Bette Davis classic gets a run on the big screen thanks to TCM and Fathom Events.
All About Eve was nominated for 14 Academy Awards, a record that has not been beaten to this day (Titanic and La La Land both tied it). It won six Oscars including Best Picture and Best Actor for George Sanders. Today, many critics feel that Bette Davis would have won had Anne Baxter not lobbied so hard to be included in the Best Actress category (instead of Best Supporting Actress), thus splitting the votes between them and causing Judy Holiday to win for Born Yesterday. It is generally considered one of the greatest backstage movies of all time and regularly
This week brings us the best Disney music in a decade, a critically praised biopic, a Criterion drama, a creepy flick from Portugal, and Japanese animation.
I’ve always liked Disney movies. but for the most part I’ve waited until they’ve reached home video (and have gained a favorable critical consensus) before watching them. Well, that’s the way things went until I had a daughter. Now, I pretty much see them in the theater, or at the very least as soon as they come out on Blu-ray, no matter the critical or popular opinion. So it was with Moana. It came out this summer while we were visiting the wife’s family in Kentucky so we took the in-laws along for the ride. I was a little worried
Mexican horror film aims for something high, falls short into extreme violence and sex.
In We Are The Flesh, first-time director Emiliano Rocha Minter gleefully crosses every boundary of good taste and morality he can think of - incest, necrophilia, cannibalism, extremely long close-ups of genitalia. It's a gore-filled, sexually explicit horror show with art-house pretensions that wants you to believe it's saying something meaningful about the state of things in Mexico. In it, two siblings, Lucio (Diego Gamaliel) and Fauna (María Evoli), find there way into an abandoned apartment complex. There they find Mariano (Noé Hernández), a crazed, possibly psychotic, but certainly disturbed man seeking out a solitary existence. He offers them food
Batman, Battlestar Galactica, Bruce Springsteen, and more are all cool things I discovered this week.
It's been a busy week in the Brewster home. Work has been absolutely insane. keeping my days mostly pop-culture free. The wife and I have also been trying to reduce the amount of screen time my daughter gets so we’ve been filling our evenings more with games and craft projects rather than TV shows and movies. Still, I found some cools things to talk about so lets get started. Bruce Springsteen - Passaic, NJ (09/20/78) Bruce Springsteen is a monster in concert. His shows with the famed E-Street Band are legendary for their length and intensity. Springsteen has always understood
Cameraperson tells the story of one filmmaker through the dozens of movies she's shot.
Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I’ll lie in bed at night and think about all the different houses and apartments I’ve lived in. I’ll mentally walk through each room, picturing what it looked like and describing them as if to a friend. Sometimes the rooms are very clear to me - I can picture it as if I'm there. Sometimes they are more fuzzy and I have to think really hard about what they looked like. Sometimes I can’t remember them at all. There is one house I briefly lived in on Grand Lake whose guest bedrooms are a mystery
This week brings us an Oscar upset,
We cut the cord year ago and our cheap antenna doesn’t really work in our new house. We pick up a few channels but not ABC which carried the Oscars last night. I had all but resigned myself to not watching the ceremony this year and in fact wrote out several paragraphs for this article about how I wasn’t going to get to watch. Then my genius wife moved the antennae upstairs to our bedroom TV and got all the channels. I missed the first twenty minutes or so and then another twenty minutes or so in the middle putting
Everyday is a new battle with sickness around here, but there's plenty of cool things to find as well.
I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but once again sickness found its way into the Brewster house this week. I really think it was the remnants of the previous week’s nastiness, but my daughter spent the weekend with a low fever and I spent most of the week feeling completely and utterly exhausted. I was in bed by 9:30 every night like I’ve turned into my parents. Still, some cool things came around and here’s five of them. Grateful Dead: May 1977: Get Shown the Light Barton Hall, Ithaca, NY, May 8, 1977. Those words mean a great
This week brings us another Amy Adams pick, a couple of Criterions, Mel Gibson's return, a Doctor Who Christmas special, and more.
As I sit down to write out why Nocturnal Animals is my pick of this week, I realize I know next to nothing about the film. I know it stars Amy Adams and that it's gotten some critical buzz. I also really like its title. But other than that - nothing. Yet here I am ready to make it my pick. It's not like one of those weeks where there is nothing else coming out either. There’s a Doctor Who Christmas special, an Oscar-nominated Mel Gibson flick, and a couple of wonderful Criterion releases. Yet here I am, picking something
A beautiful collection of historically important comics.
From 1929 to 1939, the Walt Disney company created 75 original animated short films under its Silly Symphonies line. As opposed to the Micky Mouse short films Disney was producing at the same time the Symphonies were designed to be whimsical pieces devoid of continuity or the need to feature regular characters (though several characters quickly stood out and became regulars in the films). In many ways, these shorts were a means by which Disney could experiment with the animation without fear of hurting his brand. The films helped dramatically improve what could be done with animation in terms of
Prince is now available on all streaming services - if that's not cool, I don't know what is.
A great big thanks to Gordon and Shawn for helping out last week. A couple of weeks ago I noted that my family and I had been passing around The Crud for awhile, well last week it turned into full-blown sickness. There’s been a nasty stomach virus being passed around these parts - my daughter got it over the weekend, then I got it, and then my wife. I won’t go into the details except to say it was an awful experience and I was in no shape to write. But now I’m back and healthy and have plenty to
This week brings us Amy Adams' language skills, a new Cinemax show, an Ang Lee Iraq War movie, a PBS Civil War show, and a gay porn crime drama starring James Franco.
My wife is a language nerd. Technically, she’s a master linguist having received her degree from Indiana University many years ago. As such, she has many language-nerd friends. Which means I have many language-nerd friends. Arrival is a film in which Amy Adams plays a linguist who saves the world from an alien invasion using her language-nerd powers. All of those aforementioned friends were terribly excited by this film. I am not a language nerd. I’m not particularly interested in grammatical intricacies as one can easily tell by constant abuse of the rules in these weekly picks. I do however
A magnificent presentations of a wonderful period drama
Upon watching the new 4K restoration of Howards End by the Cohen Film Collection, I come to realize it was my very first time watching a Merchant-Ivory Production. This surprises me as I feel like I know exactly the sort of films they made. Founded in 1961 by producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory, the film production company became well known in the '80s and '90s for their beautifully made period films that often adapted literary works set in Edwardian England. Working with modest budget (often adapting books from the likes of Henry James and E.M. Forster that were
This week brings us an Oscar nominee, another release of Dirty Dancing, Trolls, psychedelic horror, and much more.
I first noticed Ruth Negga on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. where she played Raina, a villain who was working for the mysterious Centipede Group before becoming a spiky headed Inhuman. She was a striking presence but honestly didn’t make that much of an impression on me. After watching her in Preacher, I realize just how poorly used in S.H.I.E.L.D. as she is magnetic in that show. After watching the first season, I put a mental peg in her name as someone to always watch. It seems I wasn’t the only one as she’s getting all kind of accolades for her performance
Sometimes, even during sickness, one can find cool things.
For the last couple of months, my wife and I have been passing The Crud back and forth between each other. She’ll get sick one week - coughing, sneezing, head full of mucus - then just as she gets better, I’ll get it. We routinely either blame our daughter, who is very likely bringing new germs home from her classmates, or our house and its potential for mold and who knows else what. It's been pretty miserable experience. This week it was my turn. I felt it coming on last Saturday and should have stayed in bed all day Sunday
This week brings us generic action from Tom Cruise, a queen from England, a Nazi love camp, and more.
Tom Cruise, the human, seems like a pretty awful dude. He’s a high-ranking member of a terrible cult/religion that uses brainwashing, blackmail, and mob-like intimidation techniques. He’s publicly made damaging comments about psychiatry, that if taken seriously, could do untold harm to millions of patients who desperately need the medical practice and their prescribed medication. I also don’t think he’s that great of an actor. He gets the job done, sometimes very well, but there’s never been a moment in which I found his performance in any film to be elevated into the level of greatness. Despite all this, I
For its 30th anniversary, Fathom Events put Baby back in the corner for a couple of viewings on the big screen.
I grew up attending the Churches of Christ - a conservative evangelical Christian sect most know for our aversion to instrumental music and, like John Lithgow’s minister in Footloose, our declarations against pre-marital dancing. While watching Dirty Dancing on the big screen for its 30th anniversary care of Fathom Events, my wife turned to me and said, “this is why we couldn’t go to dances.” It's true the film is filled with, as its name suggests, plenty of dirty, sensual, sexy dancing that would put prurient thoughts into the most wholesome of minds. Made on a tiny budget of $5
The classic Disney film gets a new release with a little bit new and a whole lot of old supplementals.
By 1937, Walt Disney Studios had been making animated shorts for over a decade. They’d become very successful but were still seen as a silly kids studio by most of Hollywood. With the smash success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves that changed. The film made over $8 million dollars in its initial run, garnered lots of critical praise, and won an honorary Oscar. With all that success, Disney quickly moved into making his second full-length animated feature, Pinocchio. Based upon an Italian children’s novel, Pinocchio tells the story of a wooden puppet that is given life by a
South Korean director Park Chan-wook takes a break from his usual shocking ultra violence and makes a magnificently beautiful period drama.
Park Chan-wook is best known for what is now known as his Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy and Lady Vengeance), three films that are unrelated in plot but share deep thematic ties and the director’s perchance for extreme violence and a dark, often perverse sense of humor. His latest film, The Handmaiden gives up the violence (mostly) and exchanges it for a lush, tightly plotted period romance (albeit one with some fairly graphic lesbian sex and tentacle porn). Set in Japanese-occupied Korea in the 1930s, the film tells the story of Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) a pick-pocket and con
This week I struggled to find five cool things so I brought in a friend.
It has been a long, weird week in the Mat Brewster home, culturally speaking. Work has been busy, keeping me from listening to things as often, or as intently as I might want. Evenings too have been a little weird. I’ve started several movies but for differing reasons have not finished them. Likely I’ll write about at least one of them next week as I do plan to finish them soon. What I did finish, I didn’t like all that much. [*cough* X-Men: Apocalypse *cough*] So what’s a guy to do when he wants to bring forth five cool things
This week brings us a new film from Park Chan-wook, Robert Langdun solving more clues, a story from Jaws coming to life and much more.
There is a scene in Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy that just might be the greatest fight ever put in a movie. It immediately made me a fan of the South Korean director. Oldboy is the middle part of the director’s Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance are the other two). All three ensconce themselves in perverse violence that will please even the most hardcore action fan, but that violence is never the point. Chan-Wook uses the unrelenting and incredibly crafted brutality to dig deeper into the soul’s of his characters and ponder man’s insatiable need to destroy. He’s
Give this a read, you numbskulls.
To let you in on a little behind-the-scenes action here at Cinema Sentries, me and boss-man Gordon spent some time tossing around ideas on what to call this new series. The idea for the series sprang from the NPR podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. At the end of each show, everyone in that week’s panel talks about something from pop culture that’s been making them happy. It's always my favorite segment and I love the concept of finding things both big and small that bring you joy and sharing that with whoever will listen. The idea of doing something similar
This week brings us a girl on a train, a fox and his friends, plus Aaron Paul, Jon Hamm, and many others.
I was never much of a reader growing up. I would read whatever was assigned to me at school but I much preferred to watch TV or play video games than read. I was about 15 when Silence of the Lambs hit theaters. My brother and his then-girlfriend saw it on a date and raved about it. With their nudging, and promises that it wasn’t too graphic, my mother allowed me to see it. I loved it. I must have talked about it nonstop because that Christmas my mother bought me the book. I loved it too and with it
Oh, what a feeling to watch it on the big screen.
On December 28 of last year, at the age of 84 actress Debbie Reynolds died, just one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher passed. In honor of Ms. Reynolds, TCM in conjunction with Fathom Events has brought one of the world’s great musicals, Singing’ in the Rain, back to the big screen. My wife and I were able to go to a screening on Sunday and it was as wonderful as expected. In the early '50s, MGM assigned producer Arthur Freed and writers Betty Comdon and Adolph Green to make a film featuring a bunch of songs the studio already
No matter what the news tells you, there's lots of awesome things happening all around.
It is universally acknowledged that 2016 sucked. The world of entertainment and art lost an unimaginable number of talented creators. Early in the year, we lost Prince and near its end our Princess. Star Wars lost its lovable Droid, the rebooted Star Trek its Chekov. Our favorite TV mom from the '70s passed and soon there after went the best dad of the '80s. Ziggy Stardust fell from Earth and with him Leonard Cohen, too. Professor Snape will never cast a spell again and Willy Wonka’s chocolates are all gone. The list goes on and on. The width and breadth
This week brings us a comedy classic, a classic of the French New Wave, a holistic detective, and much more.
I can’t even remember the first time I saw His Girl Friday. It was high school, probably, or maybe on a trip home from college. I watched it with with my mother I’m pretty sure. Whenever, wherever it was, I immediately loved it. I’ve seen it a good dozen times since then and love it even more now. It gives me great pleasure to show the film off to those who haven’t seen it and watch them discover one of the great comedies of all time. The film stars Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as two hard-nosed reporters who were
This week brings us a sequel no one was asking for, a trip into outer space, Holocaust deniers getting their day in court, and some girls.
It's difficult now to imagine a time when every movie didn’t have its own social media team. Or when there weren’t dozens of websites dedicated to promoting every single aspect of a film months before it made it to a movie screen. But in 1999, that was very much the case. The World Wide Web had been around for a little while, it was becoming a huge force in our daily lives. It had grown out of its infancy and was now into its adolescence trying to figure out what it was going to be. Movie studios didn’t know what
The Driller Killer plays like a Taxi Driver knock-off whose arthouse ambitions are overcome by its need to fill grindhouse seats.
The Driller Killer is known mostly for being Abel Ferrara’s directorial debut (if one discounts 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy, the hard-core porno he helmed three years prior) and for being one of first films put on England’s notorious Video Nasties list. I first came across it in a bootleg DVD shop in Shanghai. It was one of the few places I’d found in that city that carried art-house, classics, and other oddball films. The title alone had me curious and that scandalous cover featuring a blood-soaked face being punctured by an electric drill made me want to watch
This week brings us Oliver Stone's take on a whistleblower, Ethan Hawke committing violence, teenagers cruising around the country and more
Turn on the news and you are bound to hear any number of stories about computer hacking of some sort. Whether it's Hillary Clinton’s e-mails (and Russia’s potential involvement) or some celebrity having their private photos released publicly, there is no escaping that we live in a world governed by our technological devices and increasingly made vulnerable by them. It used to be easy to write off those who lived in fear of what technology might bring. Back in the '80s, we used to laugh at my grandfather who would rant about how the government was spying on us through
A cross-country road movie that will either be held up as a treatise to the restlessness of youth or tossed off as pointlessly boring.
The space between being a child and an adult - youthfulness - is full of manic energy, enormous emotions, nervous lust, and restlessness. It is a time of experimentation, of being able to let go and run off, of figuring out who we are, who we are going to be. Andrea Arnold’s American Honey captures that moment in life perfectly. First-time actress Sasha Lane plays Star, a lost child who left her meth-addicted mother in Texas to live with a family in Oklahoma and raise their two kids. The mother prefers spending time at the local bar line-dancing and the
I'd been better off not remembering this thing exists.
In 1982, director George Romero teamed with writer Stephen King to make Creepshow, a comedy/horror anthology film designed to wax nostalgic about the old DC and EC horror comics of their youth. It was a surprise hit and remains a classic among horror hounds to this day. Five years later, they made a sequel. Romero took over writing duties (though it was still based on King stories) and Michael Gornick directed. Arrow Video has released a newly restored Blu-ray of the sequel filled with more extras than it deserves. I have very vague memories of seeing the first one on
Terrifically thrilling first half is marred by too many genre cliches in its back end.
A family is brutally murdered inside their home. We follow the local sheriff (Michael McElhatton) through the blood-soaked house down to the basement. There, they discover a beautiful, dead, naked woman half buried in the dirt. She is not a member of the family, she has no identification on her, and no one seems to know who she is. Though it is late, they take her to the Tilden house where Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox), the county coroner, and his son Austin (Emile Hirsch) can perform an autopsy and discover the cause of death. Sheriff says the press will be
This week brings us documentary about an influential book, a true life film about a pilot, some horror films, a remake, and more.
In 1961, François Truffaut sat down in a Hollywood hotel room with Alfred Hitchcock for a week-long chat about Hitchcock’s films. That series of interviews became the landmark book Hitchcock/Truffaut. It came out at a time when American critics dismissed Hitchcock as a genre director, nothing more. He could make a very good suspense picture, but those type of things were beneath people who took cinema seriously as an art form. The French New Wave, led by Truffaut, saw Hitchcock for what he was - a true auteur. That book went a long way to convincing everybody else of that
This week features Tim Burton's latest, Ridley Scott's son, zombies, never-before-seen Star Trek, and more.
My wife and I bought a house a few months back. We are first-time home buyers. It's a bit of a fixer-upper, but we got a good deal on it. I’ve enjoyed making improvements on it. There really is something special about owning your own home. Even mowing the yard isn’t so bad because it's my yard I’m mowing. We live in what I’d call a lower middle-class neighborhood. It's filled with renters, those who have moved up a notch from renting, and first time buyers like us. The neighbors are nice if a little more redneck than I’m used
This week bring us a new Bourne movie, a couple of Criterions, Mad Max in black and white and more.
My wife and I lived in Strasbourg, France for about ten months back in 2004. We sublet a tiny studio apartment from a university student who was spending a year living in England. There was hardly any furniture - a small desk, a coffee table, and a couple of half-broken chairs. She’d taken the bed out as it was only a single. A friend of ours let us borrow a blow-up mattress, but it had a tiny hole in it so as the night crept on we got lower and lower to the floor. After about a week of that,
First-time director Matthew Ross proves he's someone to keep watching.
Michael Shannon is such an intense actor I don’t know that I could ever see him as a romantic lead. Even when he’s whispering sweet nothings, I’d always feel like there was something sinister happening underneath. So it is with Frank & Lola, the new film starring Shannon and Imogen Poots as the titular characters. He’s a respected Las Vegas chef and she’s a fashion designer-hopeful just out of school. First-time director Matthew Ross shows us the beginnings of their relationship in fits and starts. He strings together snippets of scenes, flashing both backwards and forward, giving us snapshots of
A light-hearted romantic comedy with a buoyant Harry Mancini score and Audrey Hepburn at her most chic.
In 1995, the alternative rock band Deep Blue Something released their only hit song, "Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. I was in college at the time in Montgomery, Alabama, and it was all over the city. Playing on the radio, in all the restaurants, and all over the campus. One day, my friend Jenifer and I were singing along to the song and we came to the realization that neither of us had seen the Audrey Hepburn film of the song’s title. We scooted on over to the local video shop and rented up the VHS tape (wow, how anachronistic is that
This week brings us some thrilling horrors, some weird anime, and at least two friendly monsters.
It's strange this writing things that get published on the internet. You never really know who is reading what your wrote, if anyone actually is at all. This afternoon I went to see a Fathom screening of Breakfast at Tiffany's. When I got to the theater, I tweeted about it and shared my location on Facebook. Then later this afternoon, in real life, no fewer than three people asked me how the movie was. That always throws me. It took me a minute to realize how they knew I’d gone to the movies. It makes perfect sense that people I
This week brings us a modern western, and old horror flick, a couple of Criterions, Marlon Brando directing and much more.
I’m much too young to have grown up during the heyday of westerns. As a kid I didn’t like them. They were too old, too old-fashioned for me to take any interest in. When I’d complain about my uncle watching them, he’d laugh and say I really did like westerns I just didn’t know it. Star Wars, he’d explain, was really just a western in outer space, so maybe I should give John Wayne a try. I’d make a face and go play with my Han Solo figure. It was Young Guns that turned me around. That 1988 film about
This week's new releases include a forgetful fish, a killer king (or two), several Criterions, and lots of Buster Keaton.
I have lamented numerous times in these pages about how my young daughter has kept me from seeing a great many movies. For years it was inappropriate to take her to the theatre and babysitters were hard to come by. Many movies that I want to watch at home should surely not be viewed with toddlers by my side. Thing is she’s five and a half now. She loves going to the movies. She has a greater attention span so she can watch longer and more complicated plot lines with at least some comprehension. I'm also pretty liberal in what
Wes Craven's second film is decidedly low budget and grim, but it shows the early promise of a true master of horror.
Born in 1939, Wes Craven was raised in a strict Baptist family, attended very conservative religious schools, and received a masters degree in philosophy and writing from Johns Hopkins University. He got his start in filmmaking by directing numerous pornographic films before making his break-out horror classic The Last House on the Left. In the 1980s, he created one of the greatest icons in horror history with Freddy Krueger then subverted the very slasher genre he helped popularize with the Scream franchise, which turned slasher films into a satirical exercise of meta-filmmaking. Both of those film series inject humor into
HBO's limited series takes a hard look at the American criminal justice system.
Sometimes, I think Richard Price should write all of our television. At heart, Price is a novelist. He’s written some of the greatest crime stories of modern times (including Lush Life and Clockers). While his books fall under the crime genre, they are so much more than that. He researches deep into the ways in which cops really work and what life on the street is really like. His novels pry into urban life and shine a light into places most other novels do not dare show. As such, his writing finds a truth so often missing from genre fiction.
This week brings us a blind crime fighter, a killer taxi driver, raunchy sausages, and more.
If The Avengers are all about saving the world from alien annihilation, then the Defenders have far less loftier goals - they protect the dirty neighborhood streets of New York City from thugs and gangsters (and the occasional ninja). Four seasons in (two of Daredevil and one each of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage) and I am totally on board with Marvel’s street level superheroes. With these Netflix series, Marvel is proving yet again that their aim is to take over every possible entertainment venue we have as puny humans. They’ve ruled the comics market for decades and every few
Stylish '80s vampire flick has little bite, but doesn't suck too much.
Legends of vampires are as old as recorded history. There are stories of vampire-like creatures from every corner of the Earth. The modern vampire has its origins in Southern Europe dating from around the early 18th century. Bram Stoker got his idea for Dracula from those parts and it is from him that most of our preconceived notions about vampires come. F.W. Murnau illegally stole Stoker’s story for his landmark 1922 film Nosferatu (Stoker sued for copyright infringement, and won, causing nearly all the prints of Nosferatu to be destroyed. It is only by the grace of the cinematic gods
Mutated mollusks wreak havoc in a small town, and awesomeness on our small screens.
I can’t believe this is about to happen. You are about to read, from me, a positive review for a movie about a bunch of murderous, mutant mollusks. Slugs is a delight. It's well made, funny, gross, and an immensely entertaining movie. I mean it's still a really bad movie, but in the most satisfying of ways. Made in 1988, Slugs follows in the footsteps of all those mutant animal/nature vs. animal flicks that gained popularity in the '70s (which tells you something about the development of this film being made nearly a decade after the genre basically died out).
This week brings us an animated Caped Crusader, a sea of trees, bad moms and more.
As a teenager living in the '80s I developed a great fondness for old '50s, '60s, and '70s television shows. A lot of fledgling cable channels found it valuable (and no doubt cheap) to rerun old shows rather than create original programming. I’d sit every afternoon watching that old stuff. I loved just about all of it from the cheesy shows of the '50s like Donna Reed and Father Knows Best to more urban and socially conscious '70s series such as Good Times and The Jeffersons. It was during these classic TV afternoons that I discovered two of my all-time
This week brings us an enormous gore feast, Norman Lear, Bob Dylan, Viggo Mortensen in the woods, and much more.
Halloween is really sneaking up on me this year. October is normally one of my favorite months of the year as it is the beginning of cooler weather, hot drinks, the smell of burning wood, and beautiful colors. It's also the only month of the year when everybody wants to watch scary movies. I don’t know if it's the warm weather, or the fact that we bought a house and have been spending all our excess time and energy fixing it up or what, but I just haven’t been feeling October this year. We had our annual pumpkin-carving party a
Due to some personal matters, I only stayed at this year's con for a couple of hours, but still had tons of fun.
During this, my third Wizard Con experience I came to realize there is a certain sameness to these things. You get a lot of the same vendors, see a lot of the same cosplayers, listen to a lot of the same celebrities who say a lot of the same things. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and I think there are enough different experiences to be had to keep it interesting, but it is starting to make me wonder if it's worth the cost to attend every year. Or, rather, since I get comped press passes, whether its worth it
The first five films from the comedy legends get a nice Blu-ray set.
When I wrote about watching the original Ghostbusters at a Fathom Event, I talked about how my sense of humor has been refined into a very specific concoction that prefers comedy that comes from a sense of story, flowing naturally from well-written characters. I don’t tend to like being bombarded with jokes when they aren’t grounded in something more realistic. Watching the films in The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection really put that theory to the test. Story is completely irrelevant in a Marx Brothers movie. Their films have some semblance of a plot, but it only exists as a
This week brings us a new Woody Allen, lots of old Marx Brothers comedies, a couple of Criterions, an Independence Day sequel nobody really wanted, and much more.
There are a handful of directors that will get me to the theatre sight unseen. Martin Scorsese, The Coen Brothers, Wes Anderson, and a few others make films that I know I want to see even if I know nothing going in. Even if the critical evaluations have been poor. I don’t always love their movies and on occasion I've even come close to outright loathing them, but I am never disappointed in having seen them. Directors with a true vision can be a rare thing in Hollywood, and I’m always ready to see what they can do with it.
A nice set, just in time for the holidays.
That Gregory Peck was one of the greatest film actors to ever exist there is no denying. Had he only appeared as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird and never made another movie, he’d still be considered one of the greats (much like Harper Lee is considered a great American author though she never wrote another book - I cannot count Go Set a Watchmen as hers as I don’t believe she ever intended it to be released). Of course, Peck did make other movies including the classics Roman Holiday, The Yearling, Twelve O’Clock High, Cape Fear, and so
This week brings us nuclear mutants, Mel Gibson, Tarzan, the music of Jerry Garcia, lady ghostbusters, and much more.
This weekend I gave away the vast majority of my CD collection. I am a collector of things, especially entertainment media things, so this was a very difficult thing to do. I love physical objects. Books line my walls, my DVD shelves are overflowing, and CDs stack up everywhere. At least they used to. Truth is, most of my CDs have been sitting in boxes for several years because I’ve not had room in my homes to put them anywhere. Truth is, I really haven’t minded. I’ve long since had all my music ripped to my hard drive and I
Densely plotted French spy series hits a new streaming network.
French intelligence officer Guillaume Debailly (Matthieu Kassovitz) has spent six years in Damascus under deep cover. When he left France, he severed all connections to his former life. He could not speak to his old companions, friends, or even his daughter. His only connection to home was his handler whom he spoke with via video chat. He had a completely new identity and had to forge a new life, making new connections, new friends, and new even a lover all the while secretly spying for his home country. At the beginning of The Bureau, Guillaume is, without warning, brought in
This week brings us comic books brought to screens both big and small, an election year purge, lots of TV and more.
In this new Golden Age of Television, it's easy to feel a bit like King Midas where every show you turn to is beautiful. Yet much like the legend, this can be as much of a curse as it is a blessing. There is just too much great TV available and not enough time to watch it. I now not only have a list of shows I want to watch but I now have to keep another list of shows I’ve started, really loved, but have not yet caught up with because I keep getting distracted with all the other
This week brings us sinister models, shark attacks, goofy horror flicks, critically acclaimed Polish films and so much more.
I used to say that the best part of going to the movies was watching the movie trailers before the show started. That wasn’t really true of course (unless the film was bad), but in those days that was about the only place I could find out what movies were coming up. It wasn’t like today where there are a hundred million sites dedicated to giving us every scrap of information about every upcoming movie from here to eternity. Truth be told, I don’t really pay that much attention to those things anyway. My Facebook and Twitter feeds get filled
It's like a b-grade version of Mad Max, but it's still a lot of fun.
The synopsis for Dead-End Drive-In on IMDB reads as follows: “In the near future, a teenage couple is trapped in a drive-in theater which has become a concentration camp for social outcasts. The inmates are treated to drugs, exploitation films, junk food, and new wave music.” That sounds a bit like paradise for me so if that’s the post-apocalyptic future we have to look forward to, sign me up. An opening crawl details the recent economic collapse of every major economy and the violence that ensues. The camera moves through an unnamed Australian city and we see broken windows, burning
Numerous classic Christie stories get a new telling for French television.
The Little Murders of Agatha Christie (Les Petit Meurtres d’Agatha Christie) is a French television series that began in 2009. The MHZ network has picked it up for English-speaking audiences and now the first season is available on DVD in the U.S. The most interesting thing about the series is that while it adapts stories featuring both of Christie’s most famous sleuths (Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple), the main investigators in the show are entirely new inventions. For those of you who are not familiar with Christie’s writing, Poirot is an eccentric Belgian detective who is often hired by Scotland
This week brings us a Disney classic, David Bowie with crazy hair, an early Coen Brothers film, teenaged turtles and more.
Memory is a funny thing. It changes and mutates along the way as we get older. My memory says I was a great fan of the Disney Renaissance of the 1990s, but looking back at those films it seems I really wasn’t. The Little Mermaid kicked things off in 1989. I was 13. I love that film. I think I saw it in theaters upon first release, but honestly, it's become such a part of my cinematic DNA, I can no longer remember the first time I saw it. Beauty and the Beast was released two years later, and I’m
With Snowden, Oliver Stone proves he's still got stories to tell.
Of course Oliver Stone made a movie about Edward Snowden. If the former CIA operative/NSA contractor turned whistleblower/leaker of thousands of documents that prove our government has been spying on its citizens on a massive scale didn’t actually exist, he’s exactly the sort of character a guy like Stone would have invented. Likely, we critics would have complained that he was being too paranoid if he did. This fictionalized biopic is framed by the non-fictional film Citizenfour, which won the Academy Award in 2015 for best documentary feature. Snowden begins with Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meeting with Citizenfour’s director Laura
A wonderful tale of love and loss at the Kabuki theater.
Kiku (Shotaro Hanyagi) is the adopted son of Kabuki royalty in Tokyo. As the presumed heir to this theatrical throne, he is constantly lavished with acclaim. The mouths that herald his praises come with two faces and out of the other, they spit ridicule. Even Kiku’s father-in-law cannot bring himself to tell him how poorly he acts. Late one night, he walks with Otoku (Kakuko Mori), nursemaid to Kiku’s brother's son, who finally tells him the truth - he stinks! Instead of lashing out in anger, Kiku’s is filled with gratitude that someone is finally willing to speak to him
This week brings us a special anniversary, a ghost story sequel, a comic book nerd's dream come true, and lots of classic films getting nice upgrades.
I can’t remember when I first saw Aliens. It was definitely the plural and not the singular (it would be years later than I’d finally sit down with the original Ridley Scott film). I vaguely remember seeing it with my cousins. I certainly discussed it with them and we quoted it regularly. But the details fade. My strongest memory of the actual film is the scene in which two of the marines are caught in a tunnel and one decides to take out as many aliens as she can by letting them come in close and exploding a grenade. As
Mysterious characters, beautiful scenery, loads of intrigue, The Night Manager has everything you want in a spy story.
I made the mistake of watching Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation just before I started The Night Manager. I really rather enjoyed Mission: Impossible; it's probably my favorite of the series in fact. It's a non-stop ride of thrills and magnificent set-pieces. No, the mistake wasn’t watching another Mission: Impossible film, it was the juxtaposition between that and The Night Manager that was difficult to adjust to. Calling The Night Manager slow would be an affront to snails. Its intentional languid, methodical pacing creeps across the screen. I do not in anyway mean this as a critique but coming off
Female Prisoner Scorpion: The Complete Collection Blu-ray Review: These Aint Your Father's Women-in-Prison Films
A terrific collection of some really wonderful genre films is maligned by less than stellar video quality.
Leave it to the Japanese to perfect the Women-in-Prison subgenre. First time director Shunya Itō took all of the sleazy elements of the genre - rampant nudity, rape, gratuitous violence, and lesbianism - and turned it into real cinema. Female Prisoner 701: Scorpion and its sequel Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 aren’t just good examples of the genre but honest-to-god great movies. The subsequent sequels (Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable and Female Prisoner Scorpion: #701’s Grudge Song don’t fare quite as well but there are still some really nice moments in each. Arrow Video has recently combined the four films
This week brings us a World War II film from Carol Reed, Bryan Cranston as a president, Salma Hayek in an Italian fairy tale, and George Clooney's charm.
My wife and I have never, nor will we ever make a freebie list - a list of five celebrities whom we can sleep with without the other getting upset over it - but if we did, George Clooney would be at the top of hers. Hell, he’d be pretty close to the top of mine, and I don’t begin to even swing that way. But he’s just so damn handsome and he just bathes in charm, and push come to shove, I don’t think I’d be able to help myself. He’s one of my all-time favorite movie stars, which
Watching my daughter fall in love with these characters as I did when I was a child is well worth the price of admission.
I was maybe eight years old when The NeverEnding Story came to movie theaters. It immediately became my favorite movie ever. I developed my first crush, screen or otherwise, on Tami Stronach and her portrayal of The Childlike Empress. I thought she was so beautiful and exotic that she lingered in my prepubescent mind for months after seeing her. I thought she was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. Watching it now, I realize that part of this love I felt for her comes from the character. At the end of the film, she speaks to Bastian (Barret Oliver),
This week brings us a Disney remake, a couple of Orson Welles' Criterion releases, a hotel manager, and more.
I suppose it's not all that strange that in this world of constant remakes, reboots, prequels, sequels and cinematic universes that Disney would be reimagining their classic animated catalog as (more or less) live-action films. No that seems perfectly normal to me. What is sort-of amazing to my mind is just how many terrific people they are getting to perform in them, and in the case of The Jungle Book, just how rather good the final product is. This new version of The Jungle Book was directed by Jon Favreau and stars Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o,
Who knew a comedy about a cannibalistic serial killer could be this unfunny?
I used to have a roommate named Bobby. He was a nice guy, but not very culturally sophisticated. He was the kind of guy who, even though we were working 10-hour shifts and there was a 45-minute commute to and from the job would come home and immediately spend an hour at the gym. He was the kind of guy who, after a night at the club, would see a cute girl on her way out, roll down his window, and ask, “Are you hot or not?” He was the kind of guy who was attractive enough to make that
This week brings us the return of the Evil Dead, more zombies, the devil living in L.A., and much more.
I turned 18 in 1994. So though I consider myself a child of the '80s, it was really the early '90s that informed who I am culturally. I have a great fondness for much of the TV, movies, and music that came from the '80s but when I really break it down, it was that period from 1990 to 1994 that I began to take the culture’s artistic mediums seriously. I may reach a nostalgic sort of glee when I hear Tiffany sing “I Think We’re Alone Now” or I catch Gremlins running amok, but its not until I hear
This week brings us fan films, angry birds, murders by appliances, Elvis, and more.
Movies were a huge part of my childhood. I have all sorts of fond memories of going to the cinema and watching them on TV. My parents were early adopters to the Beta and VHS home-movie formats and nearly every weekend we’d wind up at the rental place finding something to watch. As a teenager, I thought my parents were completely lame and I didn’t get along with them most of the time, but I still went with them to the movies regularly. It was the one way in which we could enjoy each others company. But I never went
Not enough crime, too little passion, far too much Anthony Perkins with a giant vibrator.
Crimes of Passion is a psychosexual drama from Ken Russell (Tommy, Altered States). It works best when you think of it as a moral satire but mostly it's just a hot (but not that kind of hot) mess. Kathleen Turner’s performance would be considered brave if it were not so over the top that it veers into the ridiculous. She plays Joanna Crane, a respected fashion designer who lives a double life as prostitute China Blue, who fulfills various men’s kinkiest desires. John Laughlin plays Bobby Grady, an investigator stuck in a sexless marriage, who is asked to spy on
This week brings us time travel, holograms, superheroes, and more.
The assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 looms large in our American identity. Hell, it looms over my own identity and I wasn’t born until 13 years later. The 1960s as a whole were greatly influential upon our culture. It gave us the Beatles, the Stones, Dr. Strangelove, Lawrence of Arabia, hippies, free love, Woodstock, Altamont, the Civil Rights Movement and the murder of a President. In the years since that decade died, countless amount of words have been written, documentaries filmed, and art created praising those ten years as monumental. Sometimes, it feels like that from the very
Take that, Game of Thrones.
Were you to only catch certain scenes of The Knick - such as when a patient has the top of his skull removed, his brain exposed while Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) prods it with electricity as well dressed, bespectacled old men watch in bemusement - then you might think it is a horror anthology rather than the beautifully shot, carefully crafted, highly original hospital drama that it is. Set in the early 1900s at a fictional Manhattan hospital, The Knick details the lives of the surgeons, nurses, administrators, and sundry workers as they attempt to save lives, keep the hospital
Who knew a show about beautiful people having sex could struggle so much with keeping our attention?
Steven Soderbergh is one of the more interesting directors of the last thirty years. Starting in 1989 with Sex, Lies and Videotape he not only proved himself one of the more inventive directors of that year but helped launch the Independent Film movement of the 1990s. Since then he’s made films in genres as diverse as period dramas (King of the Hill), crime capers (Out of Sight), science fiction (Solaris), action (Haywire) plus many more. He shifts back and forth from big budget, crowd-pleasers like the Oceans films and Erin Brokovich to more idiosyncratic independent films like Full Frontal and
This week brings us a huge collection of African-American films, several revenge style flicks, Pocahontas. and much more.
I consider myself an amateur cinephile. By which I mean I take films seriously - I watch with a critical eye, I attempt to understand the artistry and craftsmanship of cinema, and I do my best to dig into the history of the medium. But I also have a life, a job, a family, and not nearly the time I need to dedicate myself full-time to watching movies. This means there are large gaps in both genre and history of movies that I’ve never seen. There is a very long list of movies I really ought to watch before I
Three movies from the 1960s show the Japanese made more than just deeply felt dramas and samurai flicks.
The Nikkatsu Corporation was formed in 1912 when several smaller production companies and theatre chains consolidated. They had some success in those years, but struggled in the early post war era. By the 1950s, they hit their stride, producing hundreds of movies in every conceivable genre that drew in the youth crowd by the truckload weekend after weekend. Arrow Video has been mining the Nikkatsu vaults during this “Golden Era” for a number of excellent video releases. Much like the Hollywood system of this era, Nikkatsu began contracting its directors and stars locking them into multi-film deals which created something
This week brings us O.J., Elvis meeting Nixon, three films from Criterion, and much more.
In the summer of 1994, I was 18, had just graduated high school, and was doing my best to have "The Best Summer Ever" while college loomed just over my shoulder. I was looking forward to that experience, but I had signed on to University in Alabama - a good 800 miles away from my home in Oklahoma - so I was a little nervous about leaving everything I knew for something new. At the same time, the entire world became obsessed with a football player turned actor and the lurid murder of his wife and her friend. Somehow, I
An exploitation flick with a message.
Quentin Tarantino once called director Jack Hill the “Howard Hawks of exploitation filmmaking.” I don’t know that I’d go quite that far but certainly Hill made some of the most memorable films in the genre. Working with minuscule budgets and, shall we politely say colorful plots, Hill still put our a fairly large number of very well-made and quite enjoyable films. One of the more interesting things to me is how, though working in the various exploitation genres, Hill still managed to make somewhat thoughtful films that dealt with racism, sexism, and other cultural ills. Certainly he’s still being exploitive,
This week brings us a green room, a carnival of souls, passionate crimes and much more.
Last week I wrote about buying a house and noted that we would be moving in on Tuesday. We did exactly that and then moved right back out. The very evening we moved in the wife and I both took showers. Upon exiting, I noted that the tub was very slow to drain. An hour or so later my wife asked me if I had made a mess getting out of the tub as the towel I had put down was sopping wet. Further investigation noted large amounts of water filling in around the toilet. Our lines were clogged and
This week brings us some Italian horror, Studio Ghibli animation, a '90s indie, some sorority babes, and much more.
The wife and I recently bought a house. It's the first time we’ve ever done that. We talked about it for years but had never been stable enough in our jobs or location that we felt it was possible. When we moved back to my hometown a couple of years ago, we started talking about it seriously. A little over a year ago we started looking. Got pre-approved from the bank, connected with a realtor, and visited every house within our price range within a 50-mile radius. Turns out it's really quite difficult to choose a place that you are
Fairly uninteresting neo-noir pumped up by a really interesting central conceit.
Two men, half brothers, meet at a bus station and ride back to one of their houses. They have only recently just met, at their father’s funeral, and decide to spend the weekend together getting to know one other. One of them, Vincent Towers (Michael Harris), is obviously rich - he drives a nice car, wears an expensive suit, and lives in a house that makes the word “fancy” feel small and embarrassed. The other, Clay Arlington (Dennis Haysbert), is obviously poor - he arrives by bus, comes from a tiny desert town, and dresses in jeans and an old,
The Killer Tomatoes are back and this time it's personal.
We have Jim Henson to thank for this. During Muppets Take Manhattan, there was a fantasy sequence in which Miss Piggy fantasized about growing up with Kermit. In it, we see baby versions of Rowlf, Fozzie, Scooter, and Gonzo. This inspired Henson to create The Muppet Babies animated series for CBS (and inspired that odd-ball late '80s to early '90s genre of making baby/little kid versions of already popular adult characters). During the third season in an episode entitled “The Weirdo Zone,” the babies try to get in touch with their inner weirdness in order to understand Gonzo. Fozzie Bear
This week brings us a nuclear comedy, killer tomatoes, a special effects wizard and much more.
If you’ve watched a movie with any sort of special-effects-laden creature in the last century, you’ve watched a film influenced by Ray Harryhausen. Inspired by watching King Kong (1933), Harryhausen went on to pioneer the use of stop motion effects and created what he called Dynamation in which he super imposed his stop-motion effects onto a previously shot scene, enabling real life actors to interact with his puppets. His films often fall into the science-fiction/fantasy gutter of the 1960s era, and I’ve honestly not seen the majority of them, but just seeing clips of those effects is jaw-dropping. Knowing that
Grab some chocolate (and a bag of popcorn) and strap yourself in for this delightful movie playing once again on the big screen.
As any cinephile with children can tell you, it's a challenge deciding what movies are appropriate for them to watch. There is violence to consider, plus language, sex, moral lessons, and a whole host of things to ruminate over before letting your wee one’s little brain get bombarded with stimulating images. Honestly, I tend to lean towards letting my daughter watch just about anything she wants as I truly believe young minds are able to digest and work through a whole lot more than we give them credit for. I rarely put this to the test though, as she’s just
This week brings us a bunch of Shakespearean adaptations, a fun-looking sci-fi thriller, a Norwegian disaster flick, and the award for worst titled film to ever get my pick.
I hope someone was fired over this. Knight of Cups is a terrible name for a film. Terrence Malick has a difficult enough time selling his films to an audience in the first place so there is no need to give it the worst title possible. I mean, I’m rooting for the guy. I’ve loved the films of his that I’ve seen and I want him to make many more, but even I totally cringed at this title and stayed away from it in the theatre. It doesn’t help that his movies are becoming more and more experimental. Knight of
Criterion does a masterful job of bringing an early sound picture to live.
Life has not gone well for Maurice Legrand (Michel Simon). He works as a cashier for a hosiery company and is generally despised by his colleagues. In an opening scene, they openly mock and scorn him for being a wet blanket and for having to run home to his wife instead of going out on the town with them. The wife, too, rather deplores Maurice and spends nearly every moment of her time on screen berating him. The only pleasure the poor fellow gets from life is painting and even that is spat upon by his wife who declares he
Sometimes the behind-the-scenes stories are more interesting than the actual films.
Roger Corman’s name is synonymous with low-budget, independently financed b-pictures. He’s produced over 400 films in his career, most of which come with titles like Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda or Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women. They almost always made money because he knows the basics of filmmaking and he has his finger on the pulse of what's going to sell. He also gave a great many A-list directors and actors their start in the business including folks like James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Jack Nicholson. A famous bit of spurious trivia says that he filmed Little
This week brings us new X-Files, a couple of sequels, a couple of Criterions, a young Jesus, and much more.
For one reason or another, I never got into The X-Files when it first ran. Truth be known, I’m not even sure how aware I was of its existence. Surely I’d seen some adverts for it, but I didn’t know anybody who watched it and it just wasn’t part of my cultural consciousness. Late in my college career, this would be around 1997-98, some friends dropped in for a weekend and they were fans so we watched that week’s episode. I was not impressed. The effects looked cheap, the monsters were silly, and I was completely lost in terms of
Who you gonna call?
From the moment it was announced that they were remaking Ghostbusters with women as the leads, the Internet lost its collective minds. Thousands of people have gone insane with hatred towards a movie they’ve not yet seen. As with any passionate internet wave, the backlash was as intense as it was inevitable. Cries of sexism came fast and furious as if anyone who wasn’t completely in love with the idea of this reboot hated all women. Now of course, if you spend any amount of time on the various internet boards in which this film is discussed, you’ll find a
Excellent French series gets better and better with each season.
A French Village is a French television series set in the fictional, Nazi-occupied town of Villeneuve in the Eastern part of France. The series details how various aspects of French society dealt with the occupation. From collaborators who followed German orders directly to the resistance and every space in-between, it is a fascinating, if fictional, look inside one of the darkest periods of French history. Each season roughly takes place over the course of a single year. Season Three is set in 1942. For those of you who need a history refresher, this is the year when the “Jewish Problem”
This week brings us the Coen Brothers playing with old Hollywood, U2 performing live in Paris, Michael Bay exploding things in Benghazi, and more.
The Coen Brothers last took on Hollywood in 1991 with Barton Fink. That movie was a dark, cynical, symbolic look at the motion-picture business (and a whole lot of other things) that was rather relentless in its black comedy. Their newest Hail, Caesar! is a much breezier, lighter (if no less brilliant) affair that indicates, perhaps, a brighter view of Hollywood. Or maybe it's just the Coens being zany again. The plot (what little there is) follows Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) as he oversees various projects for Capitol Pictures and mostly “fixes” a multitude of problems created by the stars
This week brings us three films from Wim Wenders, a human tornado, a city of women, a blood bath and much more.
I’ve seen exactly one Wim Wenders film (Until the End of the World - I think - or it could have been Faraway, So Close. It was definitely a U2 song title, and I don’t remember any angels so I’m pretty sure it was Until the End of the World). Obviously, I don’t remember much of the film, but I do remember not liking it. Or rather I liked the first part of the film, which felt like (and had the run time of) a full movie, but then it just kept going and became a different film entirely. By
Arrow Video creates another fantastic set featuring two Italian giallo films.
Emilio Miraglia rose through the ranks of Italian cinema in the early '60s, making his bones as an assistant director on over 15 films before taking the reins as director. After a couple of mostly forgotten action flicks and a heist picture, he made two well regarded (at least among genre fans) giallos before turning to the Spaghetti Western genre. He directed six films between 1967 and 1972 and then completely disappeared from cinema all together. It's the giallos he is remembered for and Arrow Video has put the pair together in another of their fantastic, limited edition releases. A
This week brings us a couple of Italian horrors, Jesus, a midwife, and Scott Baio using magic to look up girls skirts.
I have somewhat eclectic cinematic tastes. I’m just as thrilled to see classic American films like Casablanca or To Kill a Mockingbird as I am modern blockbusters such as the Marvel movies or the new Star Wars. I can sit contemplatively through even the densest Bergman or Godard arthouse films and fist pump at creative kills in an '80s slasher flick or the sadomasochistic weirdness that is Takashi Miike movies. As such, I am perpetually feeling guilty about not watching one sort of film or another. If I start watching a bunch of big budget, smashy-smashy, exploding movies, then I
Obscure Japanese films from the 1960s get an excellent release.
In May of 1968, Japan's oldest movie studio, Nikkatsu, released a little Yakuza drama called Outlaw Gangster VIP. It proved rather popular and profitable, and so they released a remarkable five sequels to it in just under two years. It is rather understandable then that these films get a little repetitive plot-wise. Testy Watari plays Goro Fujisawa, a Yakuza warrior who has (rightfully) earned the nickname Goro the Assassin but has grown tired of the gangster lifestyle and hypocritical honor codes. In each film he tries to escape the gangs to live a normal life, meets a girl (always played
This week bring us an acclaimed horror, some women in prison, a dirty grandpa and much more.
Last Friday was the 13th of May, my brother’s birthday, but more importantly a traditional day of horror. Normally, I’d watch the slasher series with the hockey-masked killer, but my family was having none of that. Instead, we watched one of the newest incarnations of Scooby-Doo (which strangely features a lot of heart-throbbing between the characters - yuck,) an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and part of The Mummy Returns. There wasn’t enough gore-filled stabbing in either of those for my taste, but one has to deal with all sorts of compromises when one has a family. What this
A new take on the Scottish Play is visually stunning, but skips a few too many of the Bard's words.
Directors of both stage and screen love fiddling with the settings, periods, and sometimes even the words of William Shakespeare. His plays have been transplanted from Shakespeare’s own 16th Century to modern times and every period in between. The play's settings regularly gets moved around to suit the director’s whims and his words have been translated and modified time and time again. This speaks to how well his dramas speak to every person in every age. It also says something about how director’s attempt to mold great works under their own visions. In one of the features on the Blu-ray
This week brings us an R-rated superhero, a classic Bogart, a miniseries take on Tolstoy, and much more.
For the foreseeable future, it is a blockbuster world and we’re just living in it. Marvel has been churning out massive, gigantic, skyscraper busting mega-hits since 2008 and they show no sign of slowing down anytime soon. With the huge success of The Force Awakens, the Star Wars universe will be joining in with at least a couple of lightsaber flicks every year. Then you’ve got Michael Bay, those furiously fast folks, and a horde of others all who will ensure that pretty much anytime you go to your local megaplex you will be seeing a film that contains no
Come sleep around with the sleepover bandits.
Even if you didn’t know Bandits was made in 2001, you’d automatically know it was made in the late '90s to early oughts. There’s just something about the film that screams that time period. It’s not so much the period aspect of it - the clothes, cars, etc - but rather I think it stems from both Billy Bob Thornton and Bruce Willis having the lead roles in a Barry Levinson film. Those two actors have had long, storied careers and certainly have made plenty of films since Bandits, but there’s a certain something about those years that pits them
This week brings us invasions, counterculture icons, Holocaust survivors, and a fancy mop.
Twenty years ago, I was a sophomore in college. That was the first summer where I didn’t go home for break and instead stayed at school and got a few more credits. I went to a small, private university and it was absolutely dead in the summer. Almost everybody took off, leaving only a hundred of us or so staying on campus. We formed a strange bond, those of us that stayed, hanging out though we weren’t really friends in the normal school months. My roommate stayed too and we mostly just hung out watching TV when we weren’t in
Natalie Portman more than holds her own as the star, but it's Joel Edgerton that really shines.
Plagued by production difficulties, it's a wonder Jane Got a Gun ever saw the light of day. In 2011, the film made the Black List, an annual listing of popular unproduced screenplays. By May of 2012, Natalie Portman had signed on to star in the film alongside Michael Fassbender with Lynne Ramsey to direct. By the next year, Fassbender was out due to scheduling conflicts and Jude Law was in. Then Ramsey quit over artistic conflicts and out went her cinematographer with her. And Jude Law. Bradley Cooper came and went just as fast. Eventually they did make the film
A far cry from David Lean's big epics, but sometimes small is just as beautiful.
Christ, David Lean knew how to compose a shot. I swear you could take all of his movies, put them in a pile, shuffle them up, and no matter what scene came up, you could make a stunning poster out of the image. We tend to think of his later, grand pictures like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, and Doctor Zhivago when we think about David Lean’s stunning images, but Brief Encounter proves he could create something epic out of little things as well. Filmed in 1945 in the final vestiges of the European stage of
This week brings us two movies about the Holocaust, three films from Criterion, Natalie Portman with a gun, a Christmas horror story, and more.
The Holocaust has been milked and bilked of every possible dramatic meaning for decades on screens both big and small. One would think you couldn’t possible find another way to tell its story. Apparently one would be wrong. Son of Saul tells the story of a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando - Jewish concentration camp prisoners forced to help with disposing of their comrades' corpses or be killed themselves. I’d heard of these people before, and imagined how horrible that experience must have been, but this is the first time I’ve heard of it being presented dramatically. A fresh story
An odd-ball action/horror hybrid that will surely scratch that bad '80s flick itch.
Oh the '80s! Was there a better decade for watching bad movies? The advent of home video not only meant you could watch bad movies from the comfort of your own home, but it also ushered in the era of direct-to-video productions and thousands of more bad movies coming out every year. The action and horror genres probably got the biggest boost as you could make those films on the cheap and genre fans would eat them up without necessarily caring if the production quality was all that good. Cashing in on this concept, director Nico Masorakis smashed the two
You'll believe he coulda been a contender when you see it on the big screen.
Director Elia Kazan named names. He at first refused to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities but when push came to shove, he gave them the names of eight people who had been Communists. Though it angered a great many in the more liberal Hollywood circles, it saved his career. He was not blacklisted and went on to make a great many more wonderful films including On the Waterfront. That film was his own personal statement as to why he testified. It's hard to watch the film today without that baggage seeping through. Harder still is to watch
Two Italian giallos get the Arrow treatment.
After the success of his first film as a director, Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, Luciano Ercoli directed two more giallos before moving on to other genres. These two films, Death Walks on High Heels, and Death Walks at Midnight have been lovingly restored and upgraded by Arrow Video into a very nice boxed set. Besides sharing similar titles, Ercoli also used the same actress, Nieves Navarro - here going by the stage name Susan Scott (his then girlfriend, later turned wife) as the lead in both films as well as using the same writer, similar themes, and
This week brings us Leonardo DiCaprio getting torture porned, Maggie Smith living in a van, Julia Louis-Dreyfus playing politics, and much more.
If you relentlessly abuse your no-name actors, then your film gets called torture porn, but if you treat Leonardo DiCaprio in the same manner, then you win Oscars. Or something. There’s a lot of nonsense politics involved in the Academy Awards and with critical evaluations of genres, and just general movie watchng. Just read the message boards on IMDB on any given film and you’ll see nothing but nonsense. Personally, I can dig a little low-brow torture porn alongside my high-minded films where big named stars get mauled viciously by bears. The Revenant certainly does abuse Leonardo DiCaprio over and
All the gore (and humor) you want from the franchise.
Brian Yuzna’s sequel to the cult classic Re-Animator is the very definition of a film that is not for everyone. For your humble reviewer, it was about the point when the re-animated dismembered fingers, which have been attached to an eyeball, escape the lab and are accidentally squished by the police lieutenant that I knew Bride of Re-Animator was a film totally for me. Bride strips the original of its - well I don’t want to say import as Re-Animator isn’t much more than a hilariously gory zombie romp - so let's say artistic meaning and gleefully reproduces its blood-splattered
This week brings us reanimated corpses getting married, Cray Grant as a fly-boy, DC comic heroes fighting, other Heroes being reborn and much more.
When I was a young teen, I used to daydream about the day when I’d turn 16 and could take myself to see R-rated movies (or rent them at the video store). My parents were not ridiculously strict with these things. I’d seen plenty of R-rated movies but those were mostly action movies. In my family, like many American families, violence on the screen was okay for us young ones to watch. We could get away with a certain amount of cursing in movies, but sex and nudity were big no-nos. On the occasions my mother was out of town,
Not even Natalie Dormer can save this dud.
At the base of Mt. Fuji, Japan, lies the Aokigahara forest. With its large rocky ice caverns, it is a popular tourist destination. With its densely packed trees and vegetation, all visitors are warned to stay on the trails or get lost. In Japanese mythology, the forest is populated with angry ghosts called Yūrei. For decades now, it has also been a popular site for suicides. Despondent men and women wander into the forest, hang themselves, overdose, or sometimes intentionally get lost and starve to death. That’s a terrific set-up for a great horror movie. Unfortunately The Forest isn’t it.
This week brings us Star Wars! And some other stuff.
From the moment George Lucas announced the sale of his Star Wars franchise to Disney and that there would then be more movies, the hype has been astronomical. Every day there were dispatches from TV, radio, podcasts, and more websites than one can imagine. We learned about each cast member as they got hired, about the crew, the caterers, about the shooting locations, the title, the posters, the trailers, the teaser posters for the trailer, and when J.J. Abrams sneezed on his way home. They hype was colossal. It was absolutely insane. I totally loved it. Well, that's not entirely
Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean Blu-ray Review: The Acting and Directing Elevate the Writing
Robert Altman and his cast turn a second-tier script into something worth watching.
Based upon a stage play of the same name this movie was written by the playwright (Ed Graczyk) and directed by Robert Altman (who also directed it on the stage). It tells the story of six women who come together for a twenty-year reunion of a James Dean fan club inside an old Woolworths in a tiny town in Texas. There they laugh, reminisce, open up old wounds, and reveal secrets long since buried. The story itself is nothing special, old friends coming together to drudge up the past is pretty boilerplate storytelling, and the script adds nothing new. The
This week brings us new Tarantino, old foreign classics, cyborgs, Will Smith, and more.
Last Friday, I loaded the family into the car and we spent Easter weekend in our old stomping grounds in Tennessee. Good Friday was also my 40th birthday and we celebrated with multiple parties, tons of food, and lots of laughs with some old friends. On several occasions, various friends came up to me to ask what movies I had seen lately, or what my top films of 2015 were, etc. This isn’t surprising as I’m a big pop-culture nerd and film buff and as such that tends to be what me and my friends talk about. The thing is,
This week's new releases include a classic comedy, a not-so classic exploitation drama, the conclusion of the Hunger Games and more.
Every once in awhile you have to ask yourself whether you want the much beloved, critically acclaimed, and highly influential classic comedy or the ridiculously sexist and exploitative women-in-prison flick to be the pick of the week. And if the person asking is me, you go for the exploitation flick. Every time. In the 1970s, Pam Grier was the queen of the exploitation flick. Between 1970 and 1973, she made such classics as The Big Doll House, Women in Cages, The Big Bird Cage, and this week’s pick, Black Mama, White Mama. All that before her 25th birthday and before
Pam Grier escapes prison, kicks butt and bares her...(heart?) in this classic exploitation flick.
Last week I complained that the new release of an old Pam Grier exploitation film, Sheba, Baby forgot to actually exploit anybody. Well, this week’s release of Black Mama, White Mama remedies all that. And how! Within the first five minutes half the cast has stripped down naked for an extended, soapy shower scene while the prison guard peeps through a small hole Porky’s style and pleasures herself. From there we get scantily clad cat fights, attempted rapes, machine-gun battles, nun attacks, loads of naked breasts and more dick jokes than any one man can handle. Now that’s how you
This week brings us several award-wining dramas and a ridiculous martial-arts flick.
Though it was nominated for a slew of awards (including Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, and Actress at the Academy Awards), I’d probably not given it much thought to Brooklyn were it not for one man - screenwriter Nick Hornby. I first discovered Hornby via the John Cusack movie adaptation of his novel High Fidelity. I fell in love with that movie pretty much immediately and recognized quite a bit of myself in the music-obsessed, bad-at-relationships main character (as well as his friend’s obsessive need to constantly make top five lists). From that film, I sought out the book and loved
In Pam Grier's last exploitation film they forgot to exploit anybody or anything.
After a string of low-budget, b-grade exploitation flicks in which she kicked ass, cracked wise, and stripped down, Pam Grier became, not exactly a star, but a real sensation among people who like a certain type of movie. By 1975, she was ready to move onto other types of films and with Sheba, Baby she made her very last blacksploitation flick. Now that I've seen, all I have to ask is this: what exactly were they exploiting? It certainly is filled with plenty of black actors and comes with a plot straight out of the genre - Grier plays Sheba
This week brings us a new Shakespearean adaptation, a reworking of Moby Dick and Frankenstein, plus three films from the French New Wave, and much more.
What’s left to say about Shakespeare? What could I possible write that would convey his brilliance? Nothing of course. He was undoubtedly the greatest writer that the English language has ever (or likely will ever) know. His words have been read by millions of people in a myriad of languages for hundreds of years. The thing is, though, they really ought to be heard rather than read. As anybody taking high-school English can tell you, Shakespeare on the page can be rough going. His words are ancient and arcane lying dead in a book. Ah, but on the stage (or
This week brings us three Oscar contenders, Tom Hardy playing twins, a classic sci-fi novel turned into a miniseries by the Syfy network, and much more.
The Oscars will be airing in a few of hours from when I’m writing this (and likely a few hours before this gets posted, and possibly days before you read it). I can easily say I don’t care a thing about who wins what, or who’s gotten snubbed, etc. Yet, as per usual, I’ll be watching the ceremony, reading various commentaries on the awards and hotly debating it on Twitter. Thing is, pretty much everyone recognizes the Oscars are fairly meaningless. All my film-buff friends love to talk about how pointless it all is, how it has no bearing on
Cheese-ball '80s flick is light on action until the last 20 minutes.
When I was a kid, one of the local television stations used to run a show called Kung Fu Theater late at night on the weekends. My cousins and I loved it. I have many fond memories of staying over at my grandmother’s house with them and staying up late (well, late for a nine-year-old boy which probably means about 10:30-11) and watching all those old chopsocky films. Even then we knew the films weren’t particularly good and during the boring talking parts, we’d sit around doing whatever nine-year-old boys do when they are spending the night at their grandmothers
This week brings us another excellent season of a Coen Brothers spin-off, another Christmas for Doctor Who, fake moon landings, Catholic covers-ups, and much more.
When they announced they were making a TV show out of the excellent Coen Brothers films, Fargo, I was skeptical. It is such a precise, idiosyncratic, self-contained film I couldn’t figure out how they could do anything else with it. Happily, I was very wrong. The first season was brilliant. It's not so much a sequel, a prequel. or any other kind of -quel you can think of as it is a tonally similar, barely existing in the same universe but just as wonderful kind of thing. With one minor exception, there aren’t any connections to the film other than
An enormous cast tells an interweaving tale of a German-occupied French city.
A French Village is a French television drama set in the made-up town of Villeneuve in Eastern France that is occupied by the Germans during World War II. It ran for six seasons in France (with a seventh and final one set to air later this year) but has never had much presence in the U.S. Season Two has just been released by MHZ (Season One came out last year). It deals with a multitude of characters and for the most part humanizes them and allows us to understand where they are coming from. There are resistance fighters consisting of
A film so good I'll never watch it again.
When I received my copy of Spotlight in the mail, I told my wife I’d be staying up late to watch it and that I recommended her going to bed early. She is a great fan of good dramas, and this one is garnering all sorts of awards, but I knew the very nature of this film with its deeply disturbing story would keep her up afterwards. And many nights after that. I like to think of myself as a hardened film veteran. I’ve watched all sorts of horror films where terrible things happen to its characters. I’ve watched real-life
This week brings us Johnny Depp as a ganster, 33 Chilean miners, the Hollywood Blacklist, Steve Jobs, Girls and more.
For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to watch gangster movies. There is just something about the mafia that is - while completely and utterly deplorable - really quite fascinating. It's not that they are the best at what they do, or the smartest, or even the toughest; it's that they know what they want and they just take it. And you’d better give it to them or you’ll wind up with both your legs broken. If you are lucky. While most of us shirk from everyday confrontation, gangsters thrive on it. They are willing to risk
Go watch it. Now.
Police Captain Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust) is drinking alone in a bar. She eyes a handsome lad across the way and smiles. He smiles back. Cut to the two of them going at in Berthaud’s car. Hot and heavy are the words. Clothes are removed. Her pants are pulled down. There’s blood. Lots of it. On her panties and thighs. She freaks, he hasn’t noticed. She kicks him out of the car and speeds away. We cut to the next morning where Berthaud is called to the marina where a woman’s corpse has been found tied up and entangled in
Its a shame a film about one of the greatest screenwriters is written so poorly.
The only thing Hollywood likes more than making movies portraying themselves as heroes is making movies portraying themselves as martyrs fighting against oppressive forces. I’ve lost count at how many movies have been made about the Hollywood Blacklist. If all you knew of history was what came from Hollywood, you’d think Joseph McCarthy was worse than Stalin and Hitler combined. You’d never know that the House Un-American Activities Committee ruined the lives of thousands of people from all stripes of life across the country rather than just the artists in and around Hollywood. Trumbo is yet another Hollywood movie portraying
This week brings us some Bond, a haunted house, a grandma, Leftovers, and much more.
I have many fond memories of watching James Bond. I remember my dad taking me to see him in the theatre. I remember catching Octopussy as a pubescent teen on cable in the back bedroom of my grandparents' house. Then they started releasing the films on VHS, and I watched them all over again. I remember being so mad at Timothy Dalton when he got the gig as Bond as I’d heard rumors Pierce Brosnan was going to get the role and I’d loved him on Remington Steele. Then I remember being disappointed when Brosnan did get the role as
This week brings us three period dramas, a witch hunter and some zombies playing Tyler Durden.
We’re less than a month away from the Oscars and I’ve seen exactly three of the nominated films - four if you count the animated feature nominees (and five more if you add in the animated shorts). This isn’t unusual for me as I rarely get to watch more than a couple of the nominees before the ceremony airs. I’ve noted many times before how difficult it is for me to get to the theatre to see new films and I won’t rehash that here. I do appreciate that many of the films now get released to home video just
Short films, big emotional punch.
If the Oscars have any real meaning (and let’s be honest, they mostly don’t outside of very rich, very famous people congratulating themselves), it's that they bring to the masses films that we would otherwise overlook. The Oscars have long since brought to me lists of great films I might have never heard were they not given a very large spotlight. The awards ceremony also means these films will garner more money than they might normally which in turn means more award-caliber films will get made. This is especially true when it comes to non-mainstream genres like documentaries and short
This week brings us Doctor Who split apart, Spike Lee modernizing the ancient Greeks, Jack Black fighting children's monsters, and Bradley Cooper playing with food.
I have very vague memories of watching Doctor Who as a kid. This was the '80s when the long=scarfed Tom Baker was the titular character and the series ran late-night Saturdays on my local PBS station. I wasn’t really a fan of the series and I only watched it a few times, but I remember the Daleks. I remember being old enough to be embarrassed to ask my mother to lay down next to me afterwards but young (and terrified) enough to ask her anyways. When the new series came on, those memories weren’t enough to make me raise even
Average animated stories made good by good performances and some stunning animation.
If it's funny for a fat guy to show athletic nimbleness, then I suppose a panda being an expert at kung fu is hilarious. At least that’s the basic premise of the Kung Fu Panda series of movies. Luckily, the films are chock full of terrific actors and some really stunning animation that raises them above such ridiculous ideas. In Kung Fu Panda we find that our illustrious hero Po (Jack Black) is a big, fat, lazy panda who has a goose for a father (James Hong), and idolizes the Furious Five - Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis
This week brings us one of the Coen Brothers' best films, some influential hip hop, a deadly mountain climb, a deadlier internship, and much more.
Many times in these pages I’ve mentioned my extraordinary love for both the Criterion Collection and the Coen Brothers. When you put them together, you pretty much have a guaranteed Pick of the Week. Surprisingly, Inside Llewyn Davis is the first time the two have met. You’d think the Coens' films would get the Criterion treatment every time like Wes Anderson films do. Seemingly, their films fit the Criterion niche perfectly. They are quirky, arty, funny and often strangely violent . They are well loved by critics and maintain a relatively small but highly devoted fanbase. I suspect there is
Rainer Werner Fassbinder's company make a surprisingly gentle serial killer movie.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by serial killers. There is something so uniquely interesting about someone who murders not for money, revenge, jealousy, rage, or any other understandable motive but for the pure pleasure or murdering itself. It is of course horrendously horrible, but terribly fascinating as well. One such person I’d not heard of until I watched this film was Fritz Haarmann who lived and killed in Hanover, Germany in the period between the World Wars. He sexually assaulted, mutilated, dismembered, possibly ate, and almost certainly sold for meat a minimum of 24 boys all while
This week brings us two Criterions, a Victorian Sherlock, a hacking Robot, and Ridley Scott once again making great films.
I subscribed to the auteur theory before I even knew what that was. That is to say as I began to take films seriously, I naturally gravitated towards directors moreso than genres, stories and actors. There are certain directors whose films get me excited by the mere fact that it was directed by them whether or not anything else about the pictures is interesting to me at all. I’ll see anything by people like Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, and the Coen Brothers no matter if the stories or actors or anything else excites me about it. So much more is
This week brings us some cool sounding action, high-wire acts, zombies, detectives, Quentin Tarantino inspirations' and much more.
A great big thanks to Davy for helping me out last week. Extra credit since I gave him about a day's notice. At least it was an easy week for him to cover. The last week of the year always brings out very little as the studios have all shot their wads for the Christmas shoppers and they’ve not yet had time to recharge for the new year. This week brings us quite a few things I’m finding interesting though most of it was found to be disappointing by critics and audiences alike. Still there’s a lot of it and
A rather dull week brings us another take on Peter Pan, another take on Bobby Fischer's life, a two very different takes on religion.
If the weeks leading up to Christmas are a bonanza for home-video collectors, then the actual week of Christmas is something like the day after a party when there’s nothing left but junk nobody wanted. I guess the people who decide which Blu-rays get released when figure everybody has already purchased all their presents so there isn’t any reason to put anything out that anybody wants. There’s never more than a handful of releases at this point in the year, most of which is absolute junk. But then again there is always a release or two that could have been
This week brings us a couple of Italian horrors, some early Hitchcock, impossible missions, and more.
It's easy to get cynical and annoyed with all the remakes, reimaginings, rehashes, and sequels that seem to come out every other day. Most of them really are terrible and it's difficult not to think that Hollywood has lost its imagination. At the same time, there are some remakes and sequels worth paying attention to. Almost two decades ago, Tom Cruise dusted off the old Mission: Impossible television series and has made a long lasting, continually interesting film franchise out of it. The secret has been its use of very different directors. Through five films, the series has hired out
Sex, violence, and style, or everything you want in an Italian horror film.
In the 1930s, the Mondadori company began producing a series of paperback books in Italy. They were usually translations of English-language murder mysteries and they came in a distinctive yellow cover. Italian directors took note and began making films loosely based on those books. By the 1960s, a distinctive horror sub-genre emerged from this - giallo, the Italian word for yellow became the nickname for the books and subsequently the films that came out of them. Quickly, the films moved away from direct adaptations of the earlier novels and adopted their own characteristics. Known for their distinctive cinematography, their black-gloved
This week brings us a couple of obscure Criterions, a hungry serial killer, silly little yellow creatures and lots of super heroes.
When I picked Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as my Pick of the Week back in April of 2013, I noted that I wasn’t really a comic-book movie fan. That’s changed in the interim. I've since read many of the books upon which the films are based, which has given me a much greater understanding of the characters and their motivations. I’ve also learned to put aside my art-house critic hat and engage in the terrific fun these movies are having. That’s the thing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they are not always really great films, but they
Once again Fathom Events and TCM have put a wonderful classic on the big screen.
In my last discussion of a Fathom/TCM event, I praised my local Cinemark for being a very excellent cinema. This time, I must complain. Whenever I have passes to these events, the teenagers behind the ticket booth never know what to do. Management is always called and usually they are very congenial and happy to have someone there to give them a little buzz. This time management took their time coming down and looked at us like we were keeping them from all the joy in their lives. I don’t expect the royal treatment, but a little polite customer service
This week brings us an ice-skiing Robert Redford, an inside look at Amy Winehouse, Roger Water's performing The Wall, and lots of zombies.
I don’t know about you, but I had a mighty fine Thanksgiving. The weather outside was frightful, but inside was nice and warm, cozy and delicious. With that behind us, everybody turns to Christmas. The trees and lights go up, the holiday music plays on repeat, and everybody has a certain kind of cheerfulness. I really do love the season, even if so much of it is artificial. I used to be quite the grinch, but marriage and perhaps age has led me to enjoy all things Christmas. We buy a real tree every year and decorate it with our
Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Glimpses into the Heart of the Artist
Come gather 'round people and watch one of the greatest documentaries ever made.
By the time Bob Dylan toured England in the Spring of 1965, he’d released five albums (two of which went platinum), scored a couple of number one hits, been covered by such luminaries as Joan Baez and The Byrds, written some of the greatest songs in popular music, and became the voice of a generation. Critics loved him, fans mobbed him, and journalists followed him about, asking him an endless supply of inane questions. Though he started out writing protest songs and was heavily involved in causes such as the anti-war movement and the civil rights movement, by this point
This week brings us a couple of classics from Criterion, some not-so-classics from Arrow, some disturbing looking stop-motion shorts, Doctor Who at Christmas, and much more.
Not long ago my aunt was diagnosed with cancer. They initially thought it was in her lungs, which made for a very grim prognosis. For days friends and family gathered in various small groups and talked, and cried. I hugged my aunt and told her I loved her. She began making preparations for her eventual death. She gave me a ring that her father had made for her and told me to give it to my daughter when she got older. It was all so very sad. The one sliver of hope was that all of her tests had not
This week brings us a big box of awesome Japanese animated films, some early silent films, a couple of Criterions, another Hobbit, and much more.
I remember distinctly the first time I ever watched a Hayao Miyazaki film. I was still single, but heavily into the girl who would become my wife. I was a film buff who was interested in foreign films but who had not yet seen all that many, certainly not any foreign animation outside of a Robotech series or two. I’d started hearing really good things about Princess Mononoke, and the English language cast for it was pretty awesome (Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver, and Gillian Anderson to name a few) so I went out and rented
This week brings us yet more adaptations of Conan Doyle's detective, a Kurt Cobain documentary, a french sci-fi flick, Terminators, con men and much more.
By my count, there have been over 800 kajillion filmic adaptations of Sherlock Holmes. Within the last few years we’ve had two films from Guy Richie, a BBC series, and a separate CBS series. There has hardly been a time in the last century when someone hasn’t been adapting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's sleuth to screens either big or small. When you start counting all the derivatives, pastiches, and out-right stolen works that use similar characters then one has to start wondering if theirs anything produced in the last century that hasn’t been influenced by Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
This week brings us some big emotions and little toys from Pixar, half a season of Doctor Who, dark pirates, final girls and much more.
It was a tough October. I got strep throat and followed it with a nasty virus that turned into an eternal coughing session. A friend of mine - actually an ex-girlfriend from college who I stay in touch with via Facebook - her three-year-old son was diagnosed with brain cancer. Ms. Roberta, a lady I don’t know but who I have associations with, ran an orphanage and food shelter in poverty-stricken Haiti. She was recently murdered while getting gasoline and her young son was kidnapped and presumably sold into slavery. Another friend of mine went to the hospital thinking he
Two Italian horror masters tackle the Edgar Allan Poe tale.
There have been well over 300 films based on the stories of Edgar Allan Poe - that’s more than three times the number of tales he actually penned. That means filmmakers and television producers have been dipping into the well of Poe over and over again. That’s not bad for a guy who died before moving pictures were even invented. Even more astounding is the fact that most of Poe’s stories are relatively short (he only published one novel in his life) and his style is more concerned with mood than plot. Which is perhaps why so many films based
My second Con experience found me with wife in tow and sick as a dog.
Last year, I attended my very first Con (Wizard World Tulsa, you can read all about it here). I had a great time then so I was quite excited when I learned they were coming back this year. The lineup wasn’t nearly as interesting as the last one, but this time did come with Bruce freakin’ Campbell, who I figured was worth the price of admission all by his own bad self. I even talked my wife into buying a ticket. I had hoped to actually dress up this year. I think I could make a pretty stellar Doctor (the
This week brings us two takes on an Edgar Allan Poe story, Jake Gyllenhall in the boxing ring, a fair lady, a Mulholland drive, an invasion by classic arcade games, and The Rolling Stones in Japan.
Autumn is by far my favorite season. The dog days of summer slip into the cool, crisp nights of fall. The leaves turn from dull brown to bright oranges, reds, and yellows. The air smells of fire, of warmth, of cider and home. Jackets are put on, marshmallows are roasted, and all is well with the world. Even football can’t bring down this perfect of all seasons. Best of all is Halloween, a holiday that lets us dress up, turn into other people, eat loads of sugary sweets, and scare the dickens out of each other. I’ve written in these
This week brings us dinosaurs on the loose, British mysteries starring Doctor Who alum, Vincent Price and Christopher Lee in a crazy horror flick, Japanese ghosts, and much more.
I was 17 when Jurassic Park came out in 1993. Even then, I knew it wasn’t a great film, artistically speaking. It was too silly to be taken seriously. But I didn’t care. Don’t care now. It was great fun. Terrifically entertaining and exciting. It's hard to remember now - when seemingly every effect, special or not is rendered in CGI - but Jurassic Park was revolutionary in its use of computer-generated effects mixed with real puppets and effects by Stan Winston. It was a technological marvel. The culmination of Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster powers. It's fascinating to think that while
Three hours of rock and roll jam for your listening pleasure.
Arguably the first live rock and roll record was Got Live If You Want It! by The Rolling Stones. Released in England in 1965, it contained just six songs (interestingly all covers, no originals). Its sound is raw and ragged (it is said to have been recorded from a microphone hanging from the balcony though some overdubs were apparently added at some unknown point). Live music had been recorded before this of course, most famously by John Lomax in the 1930s who roamed the countryside recording local musicians. Fans were secretly recording rock concerts from pretty much the beginning and
This week brings us a bunch of double dipping special editions, complete sets of two excellent shows, early Cronenberg and more.
Forgive me if I begin this Pick of the Week with a bit of a rant. In all forms of media, the companies who make media have a tendency to double, triple, and even quadruple dip. What I mean is a company will release a movie onto a new format - we’ll say Blu-ray since that’s what I tend to talk about - and it will either come pretty bare bones, just the movie and a minimal of extras, or maybe they’ll tack on some extras from some previous DVD edition. Then a few months later they’ll come out with
This week brings us a documentary about Tom Cruise's religion, another dying teenager, Gus Van Sant's best film, greased-up naked dudes, possibly the last Ghibli, a nostalgic sequel, and so much more.
I was 14 when the original Tremors came out. I loved it. We all did, my family and me. It was the perfect mix of action, adventure, comedy, and horror. It had Kevin Bacon at the height of his powers, Michael Gross just off of his long run in Family Ties, Reba McEntire in her first acting role, and Finn Carter in her underwear (oh man, my 14-year-old self memorized every frame of the scene where she gets caught in barbed wire and has to take off her pants, but I digress.) I caught it again not too long ago
In which our hero has to ask himself, how much fake semen can one person handle?
In my review of La Grande Bouffe, I noted that Arrow Films is second only to Criterion in creating masterful productions of interesting and obscure films. With their release of Immoral Tales and The Beast, I could easily add "obscene" and "pornographic" to that description. Or perhaps, "erotic arthouse" would be more suiting. I’m being intentionally flippant here which isn’t fair to the films (especially Immoral Tales which has its moments of artistic flair and depth of meaning behind its sex and rampant nudity) but after seeing two films back to back featuring enormous fake ejaculating penises, I can't help
A tight, lean little flick that entertains then leaves just as quick.
Two boys walk through a giant expanse of space in New Mexico. They engage in call-and-response cursing. The first boy, Travis (James Freedson-Jackson), calls out a bad word and the second, Harrison (Hays Wellford), repeats it. They come upon a barbed-wire fence. Travis pulls apart the wires and quickly moves through it with ease. Harrison approaches slowly, gingerly prying the throned wires and tentatively slipping through. In these few moments, director Jon Watts gives us a clear idea who these boys are - Travis is the leader while Harrison follows unsure of their plan. The boys have run away for
This week brings us a bunch of dudes in costumes, a pregnant virgin, ghosts rebooted, killers, addicts and plenty more.
Tuesday morning of last week, I woke up feeling fine. I turned off the alarm, got out of bed, got dressed and went to work. It was a perfectly average morning. Came home for lunch, drove out to a job site to finish cleaning it up. Worked about an hour and left the boys to finish. On my way back to the office, I started feeling a little off - slightly nauseated, kind of achy, and really tired. I decided to stop off at home for a minute to use the restroom, have a big glass of water, and rest
A clever, satirical telenovela that will make you laugh, cry, and break your neck it moves so fast.
Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez) is a 24-year-old Latina who works hard, studies hard, and takes her religion very seriously. She is the virgin of the title because of her Catholicism and the fact that her grandmother (Ivonne Coll) scared the bejesus out of her as a young girl by using a flower to illustrate the delicate value of her budding sexuality. During a routine OB/GYN visit, Jane is accidentally inseminated by Dr. Luisa Alver (Yara Martinez) with Rafael Solano’s (Justin Baldoni) seed, which was supposed to impregnate his wife Petra (Yael Grobglas.) Rafael also happens to own the hotel where
I won't be able to shower again for weeks.
The famous shower scene took seven days to film (of an 11-week shoot,) contained at least 70 camera setups with as many different cuts and only lasts three minutes. Three of the most original, terrifying, and famous minutes in all of film history that is. Psycho is an iconic film. It is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous and well loved films. It's also a terrific little thriller. Interestingly, Paramount, who had a contract with Hitchock for one more film, did not want anything to do with the film and refused to give him his regular budget. Hitchcock then independently
This week brings us some a capella pitches, a lesser Wes Anderson, two more Criterions, a couple of superheroes from the CW and Gumby.
I grew up attending the Churches of Christ. One of the things that distinguishes us from the million other churches around is that we sing a cappella - that is to say without musical instruments. While I can’t sing particularly well myself, I think sitting through all those services helped give me a great appreciation of the human voice. Growing up, I can remember various vocal groups coming to the church to perform for us. They’d usually do a set of Christian songs during the service and then afterwards they’d throw down with some secular pop numbers to keep us
Who says there's nothing good on Netflix?
If you listen closely to the screaming hoards, you’ll hear plenty of complaints about the lack of content on Netflix. The loudest are usually bemoaning the lack of the latest Transformers, superheroes, or other bright, shiny, and exploding blockbuster. Those people have a point as Netflix is rather terrible at keeping up with the highest-grossing new releases. They aren’t particular good at grabbing the lower-tiered new releases either. If you are the sort of person who wants to watch a movie the moment it is available on home video, then Netflix is not the streaming service your looking for. But
Watching Doctor Who on the big screen is always a treat.
We’re kind of in love with Fathom Events here at Cinema Sentries. We constantly promote their shows, many of us have written reviews of them (I myself have written two, not including this one). At some point you have to wonder where we cross the line from critics into shills. Thing is they really do put on fantastic events. From advanced showing of upcoming films to putting the classics back on the big screen, plus opera, world class theatre and more special events than you can imagine - often packed with behind-the-scenes peeks, interviews and commentaries - Fathom is creating
Sometimes true life makes for more compelling TV than fiction.
There have been a lot of discussions of late about the injustices of our justice system. About how if you are rich and white, you can literally get away with murder, but if you are poor and of color, you will more than likely find yourself staring at the wrong end of the system no matter your guilt or innocence. Though not its primary intent The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst goes a long way in proving just how far rich white dudes can get away with. Durst is the eldest son of Seymour Durst, who formed
An informative, yet rather dull documentary about an transitive period in his career.
In the summer of 1973 after a grueling tour and an emotionally devastating divorce, Van Morrison took a several-weeks vacation to Ireland. Living in America for the better part of the preceding decade, he’d not been to his homeland in about six years. Due to the Troubles, he was not even able to go to his actual home in Northern Ireland during the visit. It was during this emotionally distraught time that he wrote Veedon Fleece, his eighth studio album. Though it was an intensely personal album, it was critically panned at the time and sold quite poorly. Afterwards he
This week brings us some not-quite superhero origins, a lady who doesn't age, a thriller that's more than a pair of legs. and a TV show trying to be relevant again.
Steven Spielberg recently predicted that the superhero movie (and presumably the superhero TV show) will eventually go the way of the Western, by which he means it will almost completely disappear. He is, of course, completely correct as we will inevitably get tired of dudes in costumes saving the world, but judging by their popularity (and massive box-office receipts) I think that day is a long, long ways in the future. We are completely, utterly over-saturated in superheroes. From the Avengers (and all of their solo films) to X-Men, Batman and about 15 different versions of Spider-Man you can hardly
Marion Cotillard gives an intense, subtle performance in this moving drama.
In the industrial town of Seraing, Belgium, Sandra (Marion Cotillard) has been on sick leave from her manufacturing job after a nervous breakdown. In her absence, her coworkers realize they can cover her shift by collectively working slightly longer hours. Just as Sandra is ready to return to work, she finds out that the bosses have given her coworkers a choice - they can either return to their normal shifts and have Sandra come back to work, or they can continue working the longer shifts and receive a €1,000 bonus. By accepting the bonus, Sandra will no longer be employed.
This week brings us more Mad Max, Robin Williams final film, a war film, a dumb comedy and the creepy world of H.R. Giger.
My parents were early adapters to the home-video market. They were given a Betamax sometime in the early '80s, but for reasons that were never quite clear to me, they switched to the VHS format fairly quickly thereafter. In the early days, there weren’t very many places around in which to rent videos. I recall only two places in our area. I remember very clearly that our favorite one, Silver Screens, on the outskirts of town, displayed the movies they had on shelves with little hooks holding these little tags on them. Each movie had two hooks under it, one
This week brings us a timely drama from Belgium, a terribly reviewed comedy from Hawaii, a serious documentary, and a gory zombie show.
My DVD/Blu-ray collection is divided up into a few different categories. There are TV shows, foreign films, my main collection, and then the Criterions. I mention this because over the last week I’ve had two different sets of people over to the house admiring my collection who had no idea what the Criterion Collection was. They were both movies lovers with decent collections themselves, not some noobs with only a couple of Disney flicks in their home library. It was shocking to me that they hadn’t heard of Criterion. In the small, nerdy world in which I tend to live,
Marco Ferreri's controversial film gets a grand treatment from Arrow Video, but leaves one filling a bit sick to the stomach.
They say Catherine Deneuve refused to speak to her then lover Marcello Mastroianni for a week after seeing his performance in La Grande Bouffe. It created a huge stir at the Cannes Film Festival. It was rated X in America, banned outright in Italy, and became part of a censorship legal battle in Britain. It is surprising, then, just how tame the film seems from a modern angle. You’ll see more nudity and sex on a typical episode of Game of Thrones, more abandoned gluttony on any number of reality-television programs, and more scatological humor on any given night of
This week brings us Francois Truffaut's film about filmmaking, a Spaghetti Western, a French-Italian film about eating yourself to death, and some Disney shorts.
As someone who has never made a film but absolutely loves watching them, I’m completely fascinated by movies about making movies. Through the history of film, there have been a surprisingly number of them, many of which are great films in their own right. From the Coen Brothers making one of the greatest movies about writer’s block (Barton Fink) while trying to work through their own writer’s block (they were stuck in the middle of Miller’s Crossing) to Tim Burton’s glorious take on Ed Wood making one of the worst films ever made (Plan 9 From Outer Space), filmmakers have
This week brings us an adult version of Harry Potter, a TV show from a film director, a classic film that was later made into an even more classic film and much more.
I have a good friend who is probably the smartest guy I’ve ever met. I like to joke that he’s like a human version of Wikipedia. He knows stuff about everything. It's embarrassing how smart he is sometimes because he’ll casually start talking about the minutest details of some obscure something or other and I have to pretend I have the foggiest idea I know what he’s talking about. Or I just admit I’m completely lost, and as a testament to how cool he is, he never lets on how dumb I really am and just moves on to something
This week brings us crazy clones, casual vacancies, a couple of film noirs and lots of TV.
I have this completely random rule that I have to watch at least 10 movies every month. Now to all you movie buffs out there in Cinema Sentry-land that’s probably nothing. You probably watch 10 movies a week. But to this "self-employed, works weird hours, and has a wife and a four-year-old daughter" dude, 10 movies is hard to achieve. I usually get home sometime after 4pm to find the wife exhausted from dealing with the endlessly energetic child. So it becomes my duty to play with her while supper is cooked. Then there is eating, after which we take
The Good, The Bad, and the Boring.
About the time the western genre was growing stale in America, European filmmakers picked it right back up. More than 600 different Westerns were made in Europe between 1960 and 1980. While they were made in just about every country on that continent, the majority came from Italians. The most famous and arguably best examples of European Westerns come from the Italian Sergio Leone and his Dollars Trilogy. While the Spaghetti Western may have ruled they day, a great many other European countries got into the western game as well. Cemetery Without Crosses is one such film. Made in 1969
It's a great pleasure seeing classic films on the big screen.
In college I had one of those special, "make an inspirational movie about him" kind of professors. He was also the theatre director, and for most of my collegiate life, I did work study under him. He was a brilliant teacher, capable of making even the dullest plays seem utterly fascinating, and a great director. It was a small college and he had a minuscule budget but he somehow managed to put up productions that rivaled the nearby million-dollar Shakespeare Festival. He helped further my academic education and schooled me in life. He was also a good friend. Sadly, he
Its a great week to be a horror fan.
It's a good week to be a horror fan. I’ve no doubt complained in these pages before how I rarely get to watch horror films anymore. The wife doesn’t like them; the daughter is too young for them. I only get a slight sliver of time between the family going to bed and me not knocking off myself to watch the sort of things only I want to watch. There is a long list of those things and most of them beat out horror in the desire department so it is a real rarity that I actually watch any sort
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Blu-ray Review: Not As Exotic As the First, but Still Charming
Were it not for those remarkable actors even Liftime would be embarrassed by this.
God bless the Brits. Or at least British actors of a certain age. They can rescue even the most tiresome of films and make it a thousand times better. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a surprise hit in 2012 earning some $136 million which was quite a bit more than its meager $10 million budget. It was about a random group of British seniors who decide to spend their golden years living inexpensively in India. They come to the titular hotel based upon its fancy webpage, but find out that it is quite less than they expected save for
This week brings us sexy artificial intelligence, sexually transmitted haunting, boys with horses, exotic sequels and more.
At work today, I was listening to the Invisibilia podcast, specifically the one entitled “Our Computers, Ourselves.” It was all about how computers and technology have changed us as a society, culturally, and individually. I was especially fascinated with the segment on Thad Starner who has essentially been wearing a computer (kind of a prototype of Google Glass - which he helped invent actually) for the last couple of decades. He swears it has been nothing but helpful, with no downside at all. He constantly types information into his hard drive about what he’s thinking, what he’s doing, and the
Don't be a grump, a grouch or a Trump, and fall in love with Sesame Street again.
I grew up watching Sesame Street. My now four-year-old daughter continues to grow up watching Sesame Street. My mother swears that my brother learned to read watching Sesame Street. Some 77 million other Americans grew up watching Sesame Street. Millions more found Sesame Street (or International versions of Sesame Street) in their home countries all over the world. I love Sesame Street. My family loves Sesame Street. Everybody loves Sesame Street. Well, that’s not true. Some people don’t like Sesame Street. But those people are grumps, grouches, and Donald Trumps. Luckily for everybody but the grouches, we can watch Sesame
This week brings us some nostalgia via the Criterion Collection, Mick Jagger as an outlaw, two versions of a Hemingway story, the Governator battling zombies, and much more.
I've been writing about new DVDs and Blu-rays for a few years now. You'd think this would give me some special insight into release cycles and that I might possess a long memory of what's hit the home video market over the years. You might think that, but you'd be wrong. I have no real idea of how or why various movies get released when they do. I also have a terrible memory which makes me forget what's been released moments after I write about it. This week I totally forgot that Criterion had released The Big Chill almost exactly
A spy comedy that's silly but never ridiculous.
The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe is a '70s French spy comedy that never ventures into spoof or even too far into ridiculousness. It's not hilariously funny, nor so brilliant that it will replace anything on any of your top-ten lists. It is, however, a thoroughly enjoyable film with some hearty laughs and enough je ne sais quoi to keep you feeling happy the rest of the day. Like all good spy stories, the plot is as complicated as it is convoluted. France’s #2 man in counter-espionage, Bernard Milan (Bernard Blier), wants to discredit his chief, Louis Toulouse
This week brings us some live rock and roll, classic Jack Nicholson, weird Czechoslovakians and Will Ferrell in corn rows.
It's Summer. It's hot. School’s out. Vacations are on. Everybody is busy. I have to yell at my wife every now and again just to keep us from doing something. Every. Single. Weekend. It gets a bit ridiculous how busy we are. Everybody else is too it seems, if the state of traffic has anything to do with it. It's so stinking hot outside and yet nobody is staying in doors where it's cool. Where the AC runs. I don’t know what we’re all doing, but apparently its not sitting inside watching DVDs. This week's pickings are once again very
This week brings us some classic Terry Gilliam, live Rolling Stones, resurrected British Crime TV, John Travolta forging Monet, and much more.
At some point during my early teens, we had Showtime or HBO or some such pay-cable channel. Whatever it was, they played Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits over and over again. I was absolutely mesmerized by it. It was so weird and unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Its hero was a little boy and a bunch of little people and the story was full of fantasy so it seemed like it was made for children. Yet it was also very dark, weird, and adult feeling. Everyone talked really funny too, and I remember very specifically how strange the police sirens
A social media campaign brought it back and it was well worth the fight.
The BBC’s Ripper Street takes place in Whitechapel of London’s East End. This is the same area that Jack the Ripper did his terrible deeds back in 1888. Season One of the show takes place six months after those horrible murders and all of its characters are haunted by those crimes. (Previously reviewed by Luigi Bastado and Kristen Lopez). Season Two takes place about a year after season one, and while the Ripper has faded mostly from memory there’s still plenty of crime to contend with in the neighborhood. (Previously reviewed by Luigi Bastardo.) Season Three almost didn’t happen. Citing
An early preview of Pixar's newest film with special guests, behind-the-scenes goodness, and an enormously good time.
Old media has been struggling with how modern audiences consume their movies, books, and music for quite some time. With broadband internet allowing us to quickly and cheaply bring all the media directly into our homes, there is less and less reasons to purchase them as physical objects. It's fascinating to me to see the different methods media producers come up with in order to get us to pay for the things we consume. As televisions increase in size and definition and home theatre sound systems become more affordable for the average consumer, there is less reason for anyone to
This week features some critically panned sci-fi, some critically adored art-house, some wonderful animation and much more.
It's always amazing to see a new and interesting director come onto the scene, and then utterly disappointing to see them crash and burn. I was as excited as anyone to see what M. Night Shyamalan would do after The Sixth Sense and maintained that excitement through Unbreakable (under appreciated in my opinion and holds up way better than Sense in repeat viewings). But I have slowly gone from great anticipation over what he’s doing next to complete ambivalence as he continues to make the same movie over and over (in increasingly disappointingly fashion again and again). In a similar
Howard Hawks' classic Western gets a nice upgrade with some new extras, what else is there to say?
In 1952, director Fred Zinnemann made High Noon with Gary Cooper, who plays a small-town marshal whose being threatened by a man he once put away and his gang of thugs. Throughout the film, Cooper tries to find others to help him fight the gang, but one by one everyone either refuses or leaves town. In the end, it is only the marshal’s wife who brings forth any assistance. Howard Hawks and John Wayne, tough guys that they were, thought this plot was phony. No man worth his salt would go around asking for help in such a situation. And
Slim pickings this week my friends
As I’m browsing through the new releases each week and putting all the interesting ones in new tabs, I make a little mental checklist. There are things that sound interesting, things that are interesting, things that will almost certainly be picked, and others that most assuredly will not be but that I think are important enough to at least mention. Every once in a while those last things get bumped up and I actually wind up picking them. We now find ourselves in one of those weeks. Living now in close proximity to my parents means that me and the
This week brings us the conclusions of two great shows, the high definition upgrade of a better one, plus Kevin Costner, loads of cannibals and a naked Helen Mirren.
Like a lot of people, it seems, I at first dismissed Parks and Recreation as another The Office clone and didn’t much bother with it. I remember seeing the first couple of episodes, thought it was pretty funny but I’d seen enough of that schtick with The Office and put it down thinking I’d never come back. And I didn’t for a good two, maybe three more seasons. Then I started hearing some good buzz about it. When a friend commented about it on Netflix, I made my The Office dismissal, and she countered with I should skip season one
This week brings us some interesting Criterions, Bob Dylan in the Basement and lots of TV collections.
My freshman year of college I started collecting movies on VHS tape. I think I realized that with the parents no longer renting me films every weekend it was cheaper on my minuscule budget to buy them periodically and build a collection that I could watch over and over again. I quickly decided that I was going to build a world-class collection of only the best movies. I’d buy classics and modern masterpieces with some cool art-house numbers thrown in for good measure. I’d stay away from big, dumb blockbusters with their ridiculous plot and giant explosions. This concept lasted
Steven Bochco seems to have forgotten what decade it is and made a TV show from the late '80s.
Even as a kid I knew the name Steven Bochco. I was too young to watch most of his shows (though Doogie Howser, M.D. was a personal favorite), and I certainly didn’t care about TV producers at the time but I still knew his name. Dude was the superstar of television dramas in the '80s. With Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, and NYPD Blue he nearly single-handedly created the template for modern adult dramas on broadcast TV. In 1995, well ahead of its time, he created Murder One, which was one of the very first crime shows to solve one
This week brings us Larry Sanders, Cybermen, women in prison, midwives, Charlie Chaplin, Bette Midler playing Janis Joplin, and more.
“This is the theme to Garry’s show / the theme to Garry’s show / Garry called me up and asked me if I would write his theme song.” That’s the opening lines to the theme song to The Garry Shandling Show. It goes on like that, referencing itself and describing how the singer came to write the song. The show does that too, references itself, the characters seem to know they are on a television show and often bring the audience in on the gag. It was a great show. Or at least I think it was. I watched it
Season Two is more confined by its genres, but delivers the goods with its characters.
When I heard they were making a second season of Broadchurch, I was both excited and a bit trepidatious. The first season was such a perfect little drama that I was afraid adding to it would ruin the entire thing. One of the central themes to season one was how this terrible crime deeply and tragically effected the small community of Broadchurch. My fear was that a second season would necessitate another murder occurring that would undermine the entire thing. This sort of thing happens all the time. A murder story is set in some unusual location so that we
This week brings us the wonderful David Tennant, cyber hackers, Alzheimer's dramas, cartoon burgers, lesbian vampires, and more.
A big thanks goes out to Gordon for finishing last week’s pick for me. I had actually written an entire article and submitted it with Broadchurch: The Complete Second Season as my pick. I was then informed that despite what Amazon said the release date had been pushed back a week. No problem, I thought I’ll just pick something else, write on it, and use what I’d said for Broadchurch the next week, and all would be well. Then my computer died. Gordon was kind enough to step in, chose a new pick, and all was right with the plan.
This week brings us a P.T. Anderson film that isn't as popular as I expected, a talking Bear that is, plus Mark Wahlberg, King Henry VII, and some bloody good bloody TV.
For a moment I thought Inherent Vice was some kind of cheap knock-off film. Let me explain (no, no, there is too much, let me sum up), I was scanning through the new releases on Amazon as I do before writing this column. It is naturally sorted by best sellers. Inherent Vice was way down towards the bottom of the first page. I couldn’t believe that the real Inherent Vice - the one directed by P.T. Anderson and starring Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, and Reese Witherspoon would not be #1 on Amazon. Well, maybe it would be behind
A completely forgettable adaptation of a novel I'll never read.
I don’t believe I have ever read a single word written by Henry James. I have a BA in English so presumably have read something, but if that is true, it made absolutely no impression on me. Sadly, this adaptation of James’ story The Turn of the Screw is likely to reach the same fate. It is utterly unremarkable in every way. It stars Michelle Dickery and Dan Stevens and came out about a year before both became huge stars in Downton Abbey. Retroactively, the film suffers from their stardom because I expect so much more from both of them.
The screenwriter for some of Kurosawa's best films discusses their collaboration and more.
Shinobu Hashimoto wrote the screenplays to Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, Ikiru and The Seven Samurai. If you are keeping score, that’s three of the greatest films in the history of films. He wrote several more films with Kurosawa including Throne of Blood and The Hidden Fortress plus dozens more for other directors. Originally published in 2006, Compound Cinematics: Akira Kurosawa and I is finally being made available in English by Vertical Inc. Having not heard of the book (or to be honest, the writer though I’m a great lover of Kurosawa) until about a week ago, I can’t say it was
This week's new releases include a murder in the arctic, a sad Jennifer Aniston, Iranian vampires, Liam Neeson getting taken (again), and some arty foreign flicks.
One of the best parts of writing this column every week is learning about all the movies and shows that are coming out that I’d somehow missed the first go round. I try to stay pretty well keyed in to what’s hitting the movie theaters each week and what’s showing on the TV, but there is just so much stuff coming out each and every day that it's impossible to know about it all. With this column I get to browse everything that’s coming out in a given week on DVD and Blu-ray and not a week goes by that
A fun take on both the romantic comedy and femme fatale genres and so cleverly constructed that I never minded its flaws.
Halfway through He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not the film literally rewinds itself and starts at the beginning. Only this time we see things through the eyes of another character and the events take on a wildly different feel. I would warn you of spoilers here but that little plot device is literally on the back of the DVD cover. It's on the Amazon description too. And IMDB. Unless you come to this movie completely blind - catch it while flipping through the channels or something - you are going to know the trick. It's a clever trick at
If this is the American dream, why would anyone come here?
Fleeing war torn Poland sisters Ewa (Marion Cotillard) and Magda (Angela Sarafyan) endure hardships and humiliations during the long boat ride to (hopefully) newfound freedom in America. It is not until later that we will get details of those horrors, but we catch a glimpse on Ellis Island when Magda is diagnosed with tuberculosis and Ewa is put into holding due to her “low morals.” Magda is put into the sick ward and Ewa is threatened with deportation until Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix) dashes in to claim and (hopefully) save her.Though Bruno is exceedingly kind at first and offers Ewa a
This week brings us new films by David Croneberg, Jean-Luc Goddard, and Tim Burton plus old films by Carol Reed and Preston Sturges and much more.
Since I first started watching films, or at least taking them seriously, I’ve consumed them for their directors more than anything else. Writers develop the building blocks of a movie, actors add the color, producers build the scaffolding, but it's the directors who really make the movie what it is. I guess I was a fan of the auteur theory long before I even knew what that was. Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to watch some of my favorite directors' entire oeuvres. I started with the Coen Brothers, then moved onto Martin Scorsese, and am about to
This week brings us the Netflix rabbit hole, the Fighters of Foo, The Immigrant and some TV boxed sets.
One of the best things about Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and the other streaming services is finding something you’d never know about if not for them. I love browsing through the various suggestions on Netflix, clicking on something, then looking at what they suggest if I like that movie, then clicking on an actor from that film to see what else they have by him, etc, etc, and so forth. Down the rabbit hole, we go until something pops and I click play, often having never heard of the film before. I discovered Margin Call that way. That’s the 2011 drama
It's a big week for interesting new releases including an Alan Turing biopic, a big outer-space epic, Reese Witherspoon getting real, Hugh Grant being Hugh Grant and much more.
Whenever a film based upon real events comes out, there is always a lot of discussion over how historically accurate it is. There are always loud swaths of people who claim the film is nonsense or rubbish because it got one detail or another completely wrong. But then when the film is praised for its accuracy, the other swaths wind up calling it boring, or unnervingly slow. Between these two extremes lies the difficulties of making a "based upon a true story" movie. No matter how an exciting a life one might live, there are still going to be large
Making me believe in big, bold musicals once again.
When choosing Into the Woods as my pick of the week, I noted that I’m not as big of a theatre geek as I once imagined. Sometimes I get bored in the theatre and I’m finally in a place where I can not only admit that, but also be perfectly okay with it as well. I came to Rob Marshall’s movie version of Stephen Sondheim’s much-beloved musical with a lot of hopefulness, but also a touch of trepidation. What if I didn’t like it, or worse, what if I didn’t get it? I’m able to now say I’m not the
This week brings a big Hollywood musical, a bigger battle for Middle Earth, a collection of documentaries, neatly packaged fury, and Angelina Jolie as a director.
A funny thing happened on the way to posting this week’s pick. Yesterday, I wrote the words you will read below, which is all about how I’ve developed mix feelings for the theatre. I was hopeful over Into the Woods, but was afraid that I wouldn’t like it and be forced to turn in my theatre-geek card. But before I could post it I had to put my daughter to bed, and when I returned, my wife had stolen the computer and refused to relinquish it until way past my bed time. A day has since passed and in that
This week brings us early Truffaut, new Chris Rock, classic film noir, a silly sequel, and more.
Before she became a stay-at-home mom (and forced me to get a real job, le sigh) my wife taught French at university. A small university. In Tennessee. She was the French department. Like all of it. The only person on campus that spoke French, I think. She made a real go of it, offering as many classes as she could but also hosting regular crepe days, celebrating French holidays, and inviting the kids to our house for the viewing of French films. My wife is a francophile and she lives to share that passion. Especially with me. I like to
This week brings us a Bible story, a silly remake, a sillier b-movie, and hills coming alive.
My sophomore year in college I started working for the university dinner theatre via the work study program. The previous semester I’d worked for the library and found it extraordinarily dull. I wasn’t all that interested in the theatre at that point, but I was happy to no longer be staring at book spines all day. Turns out, I absolutely adored the theatre work and stayed there the rest of my academic career. It was a small school and an even smaller theatre so I was often called upon to help out with the various productions we put on. I
This week brings us a very serious Steve Carell, a not so humble Al Pacino, an old Robin Hood, and a gruff sheriff.
Wrestling (real wrestling - not that soap-opera stuff you see on cable TV) is an odd sort of sport. You basically dress two people in tights, toss them on a rubber mat, and watch while they try to roll each other on the ground. I know there is more to it than that and I don’t mean to belittle the sport’s rich history, its athleticism, or the skill involved, but really it is pretty silly. Which probably helps explain why it never really took off professionally (aside from the even more silly aforementioned soap-opera stuff) and why there aren’t a
With but one season in existence, Lillies makes a nice snack between larger Television meals.
Lillies is a costume drama that ran on the BBC for one season in 2007. It was set in Liverpool in 1920. The story revolved around three sisters: Iris (Catherine Tyldesley), Ruby (Kerrie Hayes), and May (Leanne Rowe.) Plus their father (Brian McCardie), brother Billy (Daniel Rigby), and various friends and potential lovers. It is loosely based on the stories creator Heidi Thomas' grandmother used to tell of her life in the early 1920s. The girls all dream of bigger and better lives but are held back by their loving, but often hard, harsh, and drunk father. He can’t bare
This week features two Oscar winners, two Criterions, and a quaint historical drama.
Out of all the winners (and even nominees) of last night’s Oscars, I’ve seen exactly one (The Grand Budapest Hotel). That’s low by even my standards. I’ve lamented in these pages before how I rarely get out to the movies anymore, but this year it was even worse. This is mainly due to me losing my privileges as a stay-at-home dad and having to go out and get a job. Employment means being away from the house for many hours at a time which means less time to take in a film (though I must add being a stay-at-home dad
HBO Asia's first foray into original programming brings forth an entertaining, but ultimately disappointing crime drama.
HBO has been making must-see TV for a couple of decades now. Its original programming is consistently not only the best in its time-slot but often the best that’s ever aired in the history of television. A brief glance at the shows its created - from The Larry Sanders Show to The Sopranos, from Curb Your Enthusiasm to Band of Brothers - and you wind up with a handful of the best TV the world has ever produced. It's not just a marketing gimmick to say that’s it's not just TV, it's HBO, for the cable channel really has pushed
Seriously, Hollywood, take a cue from the Germans and make more shows like this.
If you listed out jobs that seem terribly unpleasant to perform, you’d likely hit upon things like garbage man, porta-potty maintenance, and road-kill remover. I’m not sure you’d think of crime scene cleaner. I’m not even sure that’s a real job. It makes a certain amount of sense as I don’t see that the police are going to clean up after your murders and homeowners aren’t likely to fee like mopping up after Aunt Betty’s decomposed on the living-room couch. But it's not exactly the sort of job you see listed on Monster.com or the local classifieds all too often.
This week has us talking about has-been super-heroes, Japanese folk-tales, dumb comedies, and life itself.
Last year, I moved from a teeny tiny little town in Tennessee to a slightly larger one in Oklahoma. The benefit of the slightly larger one is that it's fairly close to a much larger city, namely Tulsa, Oklahoma. Now, Tulsa isn’t the most cosmopolitan of metropolises. It isn’t the biggest and brightest of places in the universe. It's not even the largest city in Oklahoma, and lord knows Oklahoma rarely shows up on anybody’s places you want to be. But it has its appeal. It has some nice shopping, some big parks, a couple of museums (and while they
A silly French historical crime drama delivers good mysteries and some hearty laughs.
Nicolas Le Floch is a French crime series that began in France in October of 2008. Each series contains two episodic short films (lasting roughly 90 minutes each.) It is being brought to the US market by MHZ Mysteries. Volume Two contains episodes 7-10. It stars Jérôme Robart as Nicholas Le Floch, Marquis of Ranreuil, Commissaire of the Châtelet which is the flowery French way of saying detective. He solves crimes in 18th century Paris. It is based upon a series of novels by Jean-François Parot. I had not seen any previous episodes before coming to this set, but jumping
For detective genre fans, Marie's Mind for Murder is a nice bit of diversionary television.
If you took Mr. Monk with all his eccentricities, but dialed back the OCD then mixed him with Dr. House without the anger issues, you’d have something approaching Marie Brand. She’s a bit eccentric but she’s got a brilliant mind. She’s retired from the police force but is unexpectedly brought back to solve a murder. She works best alone, but is teamed up with her exact opposite. Still, they are good at what they do and compliment each other superbly. Marie’s Mind For Murder takes the classic police procedural cliches and runs with it. It stars a mix-matched pair of
The tragic true story of Victor Hugo's daughter.
Though Americans often think of his novels (and the musical based upon one novel), Victor Hugo is better known in his native France as a poet. During his lifetime, he was also a politician and his writings against the death penalty helped abolish the act in many places. His politics also got him into a great deal of trouble as he became exiled from France after Napoleon III seized power and declared himself emperor. Hugo had five children - one died in infancy, the second drowned at 19, his two boys were both well-loved artists, and his daughter, Adèle, like
This week brings us social commentaries, based-on true stories, foreign horror, and a drugged-up nurse.
In Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a seedy young man who makes a name for himself filming crime scenes and selling them to a local Los Angeles news station which in turn uses it to draw larger and larger viewers to their screens. They come, of course, in droves, leading Lou to make more videos with more lurid crimes and eventually pushes him to manipulate the scenes. That’s an interesting set up and one rife with social commentary. It is almost cliche to talk about the media-saturated world in which we live, and yet here we are. The standard
A minor and forgotten B-picture winds up being surprisingly entertaining.
Fox Cinema Archives continues to release nearly everything from their extensive vault whether or not anyone actually cares for them to, or if the films are even worth the effort. Case in point is the 1938 film International Settlement. I can’t imagine anyone really pushing for it to come out on DVD. I did a little searching for information about the film and found very little. Most of the websites that come up are various stores wanting to sell it to you, with little information about the film itself or even the DVD. Leonard Maltin dedicates two sentences to it
With these five movies David Suchet has now played the detective in every Poirot story Agatha Christie ever wrote.
All good things must eventually end. And so it it with Poirot. After 22 years, 13 series, and 65 films Agatha Christie’s Poirot has come to its conclusion. With Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, David Suchet has played Hercule Poirot in every story Agatha Christie wrote about the famed detective.That is quite a spectacular achievement when you think about it. Now anytime you read a Poirot story you can sit back and watch the movie too. Students everywhere studying the Belgian sleuth can now literally watch all the movies before they read the stories. That’s quite wonderful, really. This last season
After missing a week I'm back talking about Keanu Reeves, the search for happiness, Australian nurses and more.
My computer crashed last week. Well, no, that is not exactly true, my computer got very sick so I reformatted it. It had been running very slow for a few months. Strangely, it got ridiculously slow whenever I ran iTunes. Like every 90 seconds or so, it would just lock up for a minute or two, then run fine only to freak out again after a little while. This would be exasperating to anyone but it was hopeless to someone like me who spends inordinate amounts of time listening to and manipulating music. I looked around a bit online to
The exciting true story of Australian nurses serving in WWI.
The Australian & New Zealand Army Corps (or ANZAC for short) nurses played an extremely important and nearly untold part of World War I. They were often extremely close to the front lines and thus saw the very face of war while trying to heal the horrifically wounded men in sordid and sometimes terrible conditions. Peter Rees’ book “The Other ANZACS” tells the story of five of those nurses and the Australian Broadcasting Network has brought it to television. Now Acorn Media has brought it to America via a wonderful DVD collection. The five girls are Sisters Olive Haynes (Anna
It's impossible not to compare it to La Plante's other series, but it is well worth watching.
It is nearly impossible for the reviewer not to compare Above Suspicion with Prime Suspect. Both shows were created and largely written by Lynda La Plante, their protagonists are both young, inexperienced but intuitive and very ambitious police women tackling high-profile murder cases. Both protagonists likewise have to battle sexism, incompetence, and politics on the job. Both series are also very enjoyable though it must be said Above Suspicion (and its lead character and the actress who plays her) are no Prime Suspect (nor Jane Tennyson, nor Helen Mirren) in terms of quality, ambition, and cultural influence. Prime Suspect is
Rest in peace, James Gandolfini.
It was a rough year to be a celebrity in 2014. It seems like we lost a lot of greats. There were some such as Richard Attenborough, Lauren Bacall, and Shirley Temple whose deaths, while very sad, were not a shock to hear about. But then there were others, Harold Ramis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Robin Williams - whose deaths were like a blow to the head. A great bit punch in our collective guts. Hoffman and Williams especially, their deaths made more tragic by the means in which they happened. I want to include James Gandolfini in that list,
This week brings us David Fincher's latest thriller, an empires final boardwalk, a Hendrix biopic, a space documentary and The Facts of Life.
I very much like to read, I’m just not very good at it. Or rather I’m not very good at making the time to read more than a few pages at a time. Between movies, TV, games, Facebook, music, work, and family I rarely make myself sit down for long stretches with a good book. Honestly, I do most of my reading on the toilet, or sometimes at the dinner table (when my wife doesn’t let out that groaning sigh that tells me she’d like a little attention rather than the pages in front of me). Now and again I’ll
After a week off I'm looking for movies about boys, girls, a former wizard growing horns, and Nick Cage in his most inexplicable role ever.
I took last week off to spend some time with my wife’s family. Her clan are a bit spread out with the parents living in Kentucky, one brother in North Carolina, the other in Nashville. We now live in Oklahoma, all of which makes it rather difficult for us all to see each other at the same time. We always try to meet up over the Christmas break, and if the star align properly, we might all of us gather sometime in the summer. The brothers have three boys amongst them, two born months apart some 13 years ago and
Its a thin line between exploitation and art.
Normally I’d say that the space between True Art and exploitation is wide and wandering, but if The Night Porter teaches us anything, it's that the line is actually pretty thin. It's story is pure sleaze - A Nazi SS officer reunites with his former concentration-camp prisoner thirteen years after the war. A sadomasochistic love affair ensues. But in the hands of director Liliana Cavani, it becomes something more - a meditation on love, guilt, and redemption. It reminds me a bit of Boxcar Bertha, a typical Roger Corman B-Grade flick elevated by the talents and artistic brilliance of a
It's a slow week and I'm using that as an excuse to say very little.
When I’m not writing about movies and televisions shows, I run The Midnight Cafe, a little blog that deals in unofficially released concert recordings, or "bootlegs" as they are sometimes called. I own thousands upon thousands of hours of live music that was kindly recorded by untold fans just wanting to share their passion. I lovingly upload these shows into the cloud and share them freely with whoever wants them. Mostly, I just post the shows with the pertinent information included and leave the discussion to the comment section. But I’m a writer at heart and sometimes I like to
Another banner week of releases as Christmas comes near.
So often when writing this series I have to admit that I haven’t seen the things that I pick, or even the ones I highlight. I rarely make it to the movie theater anymore and since I cut the cord at home, I inevitably have to wait until TV series come out on DVD before I get a chance to watch them. Sadly, I now have to admit that even though Arrested Development: Season 4 has been out for some time and that I’ve had a subscription to Netflix on which I could watch it and that I’m a huge
An interesting premise that's well executed but not entirely thought through.
To review something is, at least in some ways, to spoil it. You simply cannot talk about the quality of Art without at least giving away part of its secrets. There is pretty much constant debate over how much a reviewer should spoil, and at which point the review needs to add in the dreaded "spoiler alert." We’ve been arguing over spoilers since there was art. Somewhere some caveman got his head split in because he gave away the ending to the newest wall painting. As a great consumer of visual art and a reviewer. I try to stay as
Book Review: Popeye: Classic Newspaper Comics, Volume Two 1989-1998: A Surprisingly Modern and Adult Take On The Classic Character
If you think Popeye is some silly kids comic from a bygone era, think again.
Popeye is not something I’ve ever cared about. No wait, scratch that, I loved the Robert Altman movie starring Robin Williams as the Sailor Man. But all the other incarnations were nothing I was ever really interested in. I do remember watching the cartoon at my grandmother's as a kid. I don't remember seeing it at home which means it must have been on a cable channel we didn’t get and that I only watched it because it was boring at Grandma's. We used to pretend to be Popeye every now and again but there is really only so many
This week brings us several Criterions, more Woody Allens, three TV collections, a talking, space traveling raccoon and so much more.
My recent visit to Wizard World solidified the fact that while I like geeky things I am not in anyway a full-fledged geek. This is especially true when it comes to comic-book movies. News will come out that some new superhero is hitting the big screen and the Internet goes wild. Speculation starts on who they should cast, cyber wars are waged when the cast lists are actually announced. Web sites are broken from the massive spikes in traffic whenever the posters, images, trailers, and other media are released. We collectively go crazy. I used to get caught up in
A hallucinatory fever dream of a film that is surprising, strange and wonderful.
After watching The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, you’ll probably have a lengthy discussion with your viewing partner about style versus substance. That is if your partner hasn’t fallen asleep or left the theatre in a rage. It's the sort of film that will likely sharply divide its audiences. It's either a beautifully poetic, deeply intellectual masterpiece or pretentious trash depending on who you ask. The story for what there is (and what there is is very little) concerns a man, Dan (Klaus Tange), who comes home from a business trip to find his apartment door locked from the
This week brings us an excellent concert series, some damn, dirty apes, short journeys, vampires, and more.
I’ve been blogging now for a little over ten years. I started back in 2004 when my wife and I spent a year living in Strasbourg, France. Initially it was solely a journal of my experience abroad. I invited a few friends and family that I thought might enjoy reading about my adventures, but mostly kept it private. Eventually I got bored writing about baguettes and started writing pop culture reviews. At first that was just for fun, a way to kill some time while my wife was at work, but over time I got serious about it. If you
I'm taking a chance that an odd comedy will actually tickle my funny bone.
I have an unusual sense of humor. I generally don’t find the things that the apparent majority of people find hilarious to be in the least bit amusing. I’ve never enjoyed a Farrelly Brothers' film or any movie associated with Judd Apatow. I’ve got no use for Hangovers or elderly Virgins. I stare at the Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men dumbfoundedly wondering how anybody could find any ounce of humor in any of it. Broad comedy almost always falls flat to my ears and even more esoteric and odd comic film like Borat or Archer barely
The Rolling Stones: From the Vault - L.A. Forum (Live in 1975) DVD Review: It's Only a Concert Video, But I Like It
The band shows why they remain the very definition of rock and roll.
In a thousand years, at universities all over the world, in classes titled "Rock N Roll 101," professors will lay a needle on “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and that’s all they’ll need to say. When aliens land on our planet and ask us what this rock thing is all about, we’ll take them to a Rolling Stones concert and they’ll hold off the invasion. For more than fifty years The Rolling Stones have been the very definition of rock and roll. Early rockers like Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly blended the blues with folk and country creating something new
The Christmas season keeps bringing all sorts of great stuff.
When I bought my first DVD player back in 1999 I vowed that I would only buy really great movies - the classics, interesting indies, fantastic foreign flicks, etc. I wanted to develop a collection of the world’s best movies with no fluff. That died out with in a few months. At the time DVDs were still really rather expensive, running about $20 or more per film. Every now and again, I’d find a used sale at Blockbuster or some such place and you could grab something for ten or sometimes even five dollars. Such a bargain price often made
Borgen makes the incomprehensible Danish political system not only understandable but lots of fun to watch.
Borgen is a Danish political drama that ran for three seasons from 2010 to 2014. It tells the story of Brigitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) who through a series extraordinary events becomes Prime Minister. The show follows Nyborg - a charismatic, idealistic, and sometime naive politician - as she tries to lead a very divided government, maintain some semblance of a personal life, and take care of her husband and children. The show also follows a group of political journalists who follow Nyborg's career, with a focus on an ambitious anchor, Katrine Fønsmark (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen.) Danish politics are much
Halloween is over so its time for the Christmas season and with it lots of big TV collections.
You’ve got to love the (extended) Christmas season. It seems like every year it gets pushed farther and farther up the calendar. I’ve barely taken down my Halloween stuff and already the stores are flooded with Christmas decorations and the radio is playing non-stop carols. There’s plenty of reasons to get annoyed with that - the crass commercialism, the lack of decent music, the spoiling of any specialness the season actually has, etc., but as a collector I gotta say I love it. From now until the end of the year there are going to be sales and deals on
My first ever Con found me checking out cosplayers and listening to James Marsters and William Shatner.
When I learned I’d be going to Wizard World's Tulsa Comic Con this past weekend, I was excited and a little nervous. I’d never been to a Con before, and while I have certain dorky tendencies, I don’t consider myself a full-blown geek. I’ve read a few graphic novels and manga, but I don’t haunt the comic book store. I’ve seen almost all of the superhero movies, but rarely have they been caught in the theatre. I like science fiction movies and stories but not more so than any other genre. And while I play a lot of games, they
A collection of historic, important, and just a little bit esoteric political cartoons from a bygone era
Political cartoons have been around since the early 1700s though they didn’t really come into their own until the later part of the 18th Century with the advent of the French Revolution. It took Punch, a weekly British magazine to firmly establish the medium as something that could have a real impact on the culture and political landscape. Now at the beginning of the 21st with newspapers, editorials, and the comics pages disappearing all together it's difficult to understand what great influence the political cartoonist wielded. But wield it, they did. In 1884, at the height of its power, Puck
Christmas is coming and with it comes big boxed sets and lots of TV collections.
For nearly as long as I can remember and certainly for as long as I’ve taken cinema seriously ,I’ve been a follower of the auteur theory. Even at a young age, I realized how influential a director was to the overall development and final artistic vision of a film. To this day, I tend to refer to films by their director rather than their stars or plot lines. The best directors leave their stamp on a movie no matter the genre. Stanley Kubrick was truly an auteur in every meaning of the word. You can tell its one of his
A nostalgic family film that wants to remind you of classic '80s adventure movies, but instead made me chuck things at my TV.
I recently wrote about how I’ve become obsessed with the idea of watching all the old movies I loved as a kid with my own child. There is something really wonderful about the sharing of films that meant a great deal to yourself as you grew up with your own offspring as they grow older. Along with this, I’ve began to wonder what new films my daughter will love. What films will she take with her to college and get all nostalgia-eyed with her suite mates and girlfriends? What will be her Karate Kid? Her Gremlins? At three, she’s really
There's no squigglevision, but the laughs are as strong as they ever were.
For my first three years of college I didn’t have a TV. I had a radio but never listened to it, and I stopped subscribing to music magazines. I did watch a lot of movies but for the most part I was living in a pop-culture void. I didn’t really miss it and I can't say that I missed much. Although I still sometimes find myself wondering what the deal with Friends was. My senior year I moved into an apartment with three other guys and one of them had a TV. I started trying to catch up with all
Surprisingly its a weak week for scary movies, but a good one for everything else.
In case you’ve been stuck inside without any form of media (or a calendar) over the last month, Halloween is this Friday. I love this holiday more than just about any other day. I love the weather, the candy, the scary movies and dressing my kid up in some ridiculous costume. I just love every little bit of it. For years now, my wife and I have hosted a pumpkin-carving party. We invite all of our friends over, decorate the house, dress up the kids, fill every bowl with candy, put Thriller on the stereo, and carve little orange vegetables
Hollywood has been remaking movies for nearly as long as its been making them. It does seem that the last few years, going back as far as maybe a decade, that the movie machine has been churning out remakes at a faster and faster speed. As subset of the remakes are prequels and reimaginings, which I seem to be seeing more and more as the days roll on. More recently we’ve got the post-Wicked retellings of old stories from the villains point of view. This has been popular in fiction for awhile coming on fast ever since Wicked, Gregory Maguire’s
Book Review: Lit Up Inside: Selected Lyrics by Van Morrison: You've Heard the Songs, Now Read the Lyrics
Have I told you lately that I love Van Morrison?
That Van Morrison is one of the greatest singer-songwriters in the whole of pop music there is no doubt. That he is also an old soul Irish poet few would argue against. He is a true legend. One of the most unique and brilliant voices of rock and roll the world has ever known. Don’t you know, he’s got soul? And heart. And pure genius. For over 50 years he’s been making some of the most remarkable music in just about any genre. From rock to jazz, blues to gospel, skiffle to Celtic - Van Morrison has played them all.
With any luck this collection will bring Skippy back to the public consciousness - it certainly deserves it.
Skippy was created by Percy Crosby and ran from 1923 to 1945. In its time it was hugely popular, highly acclaimed, and adapted into movies, novels, radio shows, and even got its very own postage stamp. Crosby got fabulously rich off of syndication rights and merchandise (though Skippy peanut butter never paid him a dime even though they completely ripped off the name and his art work). They say he made more money than the President of the United States in his prime, which was apparently a popular metric at the time. The comic is widely considered one of the
This week's releases include a highly acclaimed science fiction movie, several complete television collections, an HBO special, and more.
My in-laws have been spending the week with us. Mostly this is just swell as they are wonderful people who have been very kind to me in the 14 years that I’ve been involved with their daughter. They make great sitters for my daughter as well. It really is nice to have them around, but it does wreak havoc on parts of my life. This is especially true of my entertainment consumption. There are lots of things I cannot watch when they are around. Part of this is simply that I’m in the middle of a series and they won’t
Making music, love, and enough LSD to get the whole world high.
Owsley Stanley is not a household name, but he probably should be. He was financier and soundman of the Grateful Dead in their early, transformative years. As a sound engineer he was revolutionary. In the primal days of rock 'n' roll, bands tended to plug into whatever crappy sound system the venue had and just made do. Usually, these places weren’t intended for rock concerts and the sound sucked. There weren’t even monitors on stage so the band could hear themselves play. Owsley changed all that. He invented systems that are still in use in concert venues all over the
A densely plotted drama that loses none of its depth while remaining thrilling to watch.
Awhile back I made a pact with myself to not get involved in internet discussions of politics. There were many reasons for this but the main one was that nobody’s mind is ever changed via Facebook. A big part of the why this is comes from the lack of nuance one typically gets with an internet argument. We speak in gifs and memes and argue in soundbites. Big ideas, important topics, and certainly national politics are much too complicated to be settled in 140 characters. This is true not only in our social media, but in our TV, radio, and
The film matched all of the promise of the concept.
I like the idea of X-Men more than I usually like the execution. The mutant concept with all of the different and interesting powers coming from genetics is really neat. I also love that the ideas behind the mutants can be connected philosophically to our fights against racism and homophobia, but can also connect to anyone, individually, who doesn’t fit in. It's comic book heroes with an important message that’s also super cool. Unfortunately, the execution of this concept hasn’t always paid off for me. I’ve seen all the Hollywood movies and while I’ve enjoyed them as big blockbuster summer-type
I can't wait for my little girl to grow up with me and movies.
There is a fairly constant discussion in my home over the television. Or rather how much of it my child should be watching. There are lots of studies, blogs, and opinions on the matter with a great many who will tell you that she shouldn’t watch any. TV is the opiate of the masses, the boob-tube, a bad babysitter, etc. It rots the brain. My wife and I sometimes side with those thoughts and try to not let her watch any. Except when we do. Which is often. Sometimes you just have to. Like when you are trying to clean
I'm not at all a foodie, but I'd like to be.
In college, I had a friend who majored in theater. One day he hit me up to help him out with a project. It was for his directing class and I was to be his actor. It was no big deal, he assured me, as I wasn’t meant to really act. This assignment was all about staging - where to place bodies to create an interesting picture from the audience. I didn’t need to memorize lines or nothing. I agreed and my friend Kellie and I spent a couple of days with Charlie learning where to stand when we said
The Exorcist: The Complete Anthology and Halloween: The Complete Collection Are the Picks of the Week
As Halloween creeps near its time to start bringing out the big horror collections.
A couple of years back I decided to finally sit down and watch the notoriously graphic horror movie A Serbian Film. My wife was at work so she couldn’t complain and my daughter was maybe 9 or 10 months old and also unable to protest. I like horror movies. I have since I was a teen. I even dig some of the really gory stuff. Or at least I like to be able to say I've watched the grossest of the gross. So it was with A Serbian Film. Its reputation as one of the nastiest films ever made only
David Lynch's bizarre, brilliant masterpiece gets the Criterion make-over.
People always carry on about how wonderful children are - how amazing and beautiful they can be, how they change your life and show you what love truly is. Mostly I find all that crap to be B.S., but there is some truth in how they change your life. Before I had a kid I actually had a life. Now I spend every waking moment feeding, cleaning up after, bathing, changing, and otherwise taking care of the little rugrat. I love my daughter more than anything in this entire universe, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days
Series Two doesn't stray too far from the premise it set up in Series One, but that's not a bad thing, not a bad thing at all.
When we talk about this new golden age of television, we seem to always be talking about American TV. Certainly there has been a wealth of great American TV to enter our households over the last many years, but it seems a shame that British television is so often neglected in those discussions. I’d argue that the Brits have not yet created a show with the scope and depth of something like The Wire or Breaking Bad (though Life on Mars gets close) but they are really great at taking a classic genre and making it as good as it
Despite not liking a good number of his books, I can't help but love Nick Hornby.
I first heard of Nick Hornby through the movie version of his musically obsessed book High Fidelity. The film stars John Cusack as Rob, a down-on-his-luck, record-store owner whose entire life has been influenced by pop songs and who tends to spend his day making mix tapes for pretty girls and Top Five lists of favorite every things. After watching that film, pretty much all of my friends turned to me and mentioned that it must have been based on my life. That’s not true, of course, but it could have been. Certainly large chunks of my life have been
My suspicion is unless you are a frenzied scholar this book might notoriously turn you psycho.
In 1939, at the age of 40, Alfred Hitchcock moved to America. He’d had huge success as a filmmaker in Britain, but Hollywood was calling, and as so many others before him and after, Hitchcock answered that call. As scholar Murray Pomerance writes in Alfred Hitchcock’s America, the famed director loved America and was both highly influenced by and greatly influenced it himself. Certainly he made his greatest films while living in America, many of which have come to represent the very ideals of this country. Pomerance comes to these films from a cultural and political standpoint and this book
This week brings some good TV and some classic monsters.
It seems like forever since I’ve had a really challenging pick of the week. Hardly at all this summer have I had to really choose between two or three items that I was really interested in. More than once the picks have been between something kind of interesting and something else that might be ok. It not that there hasn’t been anything that I think will be good, and looking back on the things I did pick I recognize there’s been some really nice releases. But I don’t recall a week where I was blown away by all the great
P.G. Wodehouse's wonderful characters make it to the small screen.
I can’t remember when I first heard of P.G. Wodehouse. He seems to just always exist in my memory. I do remember the first time I read one of his books - I wasn’t particularly impressed. His writing was good and there were lots of funny parts, but nothing very much really happened. The plot was as light as a puff pastry just out of the oven. This threw me at first, but after reading a couple more I learned to just let go and enjoy the wonderfulness of his prose. The thing to me about Wodehouse is that he’s
Dead babies, botched amputations, and lots of laughs.
It must be a difficult experience for an actor to try and move beyond starring in a successful series. You work so hard to find success and then when it comes you can be overshadowed by it. There are examples after examples after examples of actors finding success in a movie or television series only to either get caught playing the same sorts of characters for the rest of their careers or to sink into obscurity. Both Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe know all about this struggle. Radcliffe having starred as Harry Potter in eight hugely successful films and Hamm
This week sees two foreign releases from Criterion and some excellent television.
Some folks wax nostalgic about the days when MTV actually played music videos; I get all teary eyed thinking about the days when Bravo showed independent and foreign films commercial free. It was there, on this channel that is now full of Top Chefs and Real Housewives, where I got my first taste of world cinema. As a teenager who had grown up watching family-oriented blockbusters like The Goonies, The Karate Kid, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, seeing art-house films from places like Italy, France, and Sweden was an exotic revelation. I don’t know that I really understood what
Who needs Batman when you've got the Suicide Squad?
A title that should have more appropriately been called Suicide Squad: Assault on Arkham is never-the-less an enjoyable entry into the DC animated universe. Batman is nothing more than a secondary character here used mainly to move some plotting along. No doubt the marketing people had a play in the title knowing that Batman is a much more marketable name than Suicide Squad. I can’t say it doesn’t work as I never would have been interested in reviewing it as until now I’d never heard of the Suicide Squad. To catch up those not in the know, the Suicide Squad
I’m always interested in seeing the films Colin Firth is in because even if the film's rubbish, you can count on his performance.
My wife, like all red-blooded women (and more than a few red-blooded men) loves Colin Firth. She practically drools anytime his name gets mentioned and goes weak in the knees when he appears on screen. This is mostly due to his appearance as Mr. Darcy in an old A&E miniseries adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I’ve tried to watch that thing several times myself, but can never get more than half an hour in before I’m digging my eyes out with a salad spoon out of sheer boredom. But I can see what she means about old Colin. He has
It's a reasonable bet that I’ll be buying it on DVD sooner or later.
We finally get high speed internet last Wednesday. It is a little ridiculous how excited I am about it. I spent a good chunk of this evening resubscribing to Netflix and adding new stuff to my queue. Thing is, because I’m still with terrible internet, this process took me a couple of hours. I got to the home page, clicked on "sign in" and waited, and waited. And waited some more. I’d refresh and wait. Close out and start again. And wait. Then it let me sign in except I couldn’t remember my password. I’d ask it for a new
Darren Aronofsky used nearly all the tricks in his arsenal to create a visually stunning and well-crafted movie.
I went to see Noah with a group of friends on opening weekend. We were a pretty diverse bunch in terms of politics, education, and cinematic interest (one guy can count on one hand the number of movies he's seen since he got married five years ago.) But we all shared an interest in religion and were interested in seeing this Biblical tale told on the big screen. Our reactions were about as diverse as who we vote for. The Biblical literalist hated it for taking liberties with the text. The Republican hated it for pushing what he thought was
Mostly, it's completely forgettable.
Horror seems uniquely suited for an anthology series. Since horror, unlike many other genres, relies heavily on big reveals at the end it becomes difficult to keep up the thrills and chills for more than an hour or two. An anthology allows you to tell lots of different stories and (potentially) scare the hell out of everyone time and time again while likewise retaining a certain amount of name recognition under one title. It makes sense then that TV and film producers would be interested in telling unrelated tales underneath a single banner. Certainly this bares itself out with numerous
What I have seen looks like pure joy.
Living with my parents is beginning to take its toll. After much looking and consideration, we decided to move into an apartment while we start the process of building our own home. It's much smaller than the rental houses we looked at but the money saved makes it worth the irritation. However, the apartment we wanted is not available until August 5, which is why we’re still living with my parents. My parents are lovely people and incredibly kind. While their house is rather large, it’s still pretty cramped when you put both of our families (and all of our
A great film that should be watched and revered by any serious cinephile
Everyone agrees that Ingmar Bergman is one of the greatest director’s of world cinema. Almost no one disagrees that his films can be difficult to watch and even more so to understand. I’ve long held the theory than when Americans say that they do no like foreign language films they really just don’t like Bergman. Even if they’ve never heard his name or watched his films, his style of intellectual, arty, often-incomprehensible cinema is exactly the sort of thing that turns people off from non-Hollywood movies. I’ll admit that while I do hold the director in the highest esteem, and
Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th DVD Review: Jason, Jason, and More Jason
If you love this series, then this will no doubt get your slasher-juices flowing.
Looking to cash in on the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween, Paramount Pictures hired Sean S. Cunningham to produce and direct a new horror film. That movie was 1980's Friday the 13th. It was not the first slasher film ever nor anything close to the best but something about it spoke to audiences all over the world to the tune of nearly $40 million. It spawned nine sequels, a television series, a Nightmare on Elm Street crossover film, a 2009 reboot, and numerous novels and comic books. Jason Voorhees and his hockey-mask-wearing, machete-yielding self has become a horror icon. The
I pray that it becomes more than another footnote on the Mr. Skin webpage.
Random story: my father recently got on my mother’s computer which is set up slightly different than his own device. Mom’s homepage is set to Google, whereas my father prefers Yahoo. Dad actually googled “yahoo” then clicked on the link and searched for whatever it was he was actually looking for. Thing is, my dad is actually relatively computer literate. He’s had a computer since the early '90s, been online since 1996, was an early adapter to digital photography and can draw house plans on his CAD program like a master. Yet somehow search engines still elude him. I frackin’
I've been meaning to check out Lars von Trier's films for a long time. This week's pick just might get me there.
I suppose every film lover keeps some sort of list of films they feel they should watch at some point. Mine is an ever increasingly growing and perpetually changing list. The films I watch from that list are chosen from a variety of factors ranging from free time to accessibility to mood. There are quite a few films that I very much want to watch but that I feel like I have to be in a certain head space to really appreciate. There are some directors whose work often falls into this category. I generally love the films of Ingmar
It is absolutely not a film for everyone, but it is an essential viewing for horror fanatics.
In the small town in Oklahoma where I grew up, we had a surprisingly big video store. They had taken over a Burger King that had gone out of business (and that tells you right there how "small town" we were) so the floor space was rather large and they had a really wonderful and eclectic selection of odd-ball movies. I especially enjoyed their horror section. They had the usual collection of psycho killers slashing at sexy teens (this was the '80s after all) but they also had more unusual stuff like the Faces of Death series, Shocking Asia, Vampyros
A thing of everlasting beauty.
A few weeks after we got married my wife and I caught a showing of A Hard Day's Night at the local cineplex. That summer they were running all sorts of old films and as neither of us had seen that Beatles classic. we figured it would be fun. It turned out to be one of the most perfect, happiest moments of my life. We were still basking in the glow of being newly married, filled with so much love and potential. The theatre was one of those big, new, stadium-seating jobs with giant plush seats that you could get
It comes most highly recommended to anyone with an interest in comics.
Little Orphan Annie was a daily comic strip created, written, and drawn by Harold Gray. It began in August 1924 and was finally cancelled in June 2010. Gray wrote every strip until his death in 1968 after which it was taken over by a variety of artists. At its peak, it was read by millions and in 1937 it was ranked number one in popularity by a Fortune poll. It has been adapted into a variety of other mediums, including comic books, a radio show, a broadway musical, and a popular movie based upon the theatrical production. Though ostensibly for
It is a ludicrously beautiful film full of mirth and wonder.
Over the last few years, I’ve regularly complained that the local cineplexes all show the same overblown blockbusters and none of them pay any attention to smaller, independent, or art-house films. Well, I moved and now there are multiple theaters that play all sorts of films you won’t be seeing at the top of the box-office lists. Hallelujah. We have a locally owned cinema that plays all sorts of interesting independent fare. They do lots of cool things like show relatively locally made movies with the filmmakers coming to the showing. Or sometimes they have scholars come to give a
A loving remembrance of how Doctor Who got its start.
In 1963, the BBC had a space to fill in its Saturday time slot. Legendary producer and head of drama Sydney Newman had an idea for an educational science fiction show to fill it. He promoted Verity Lambert to produce the show (creating the first female producer of a dramatic program at the network). She hired character actor William Hartnell as the lead. It had a minuscule budget, a tiny studio, and got off to a rough start (the pilot aired the day of the JFK assassination) but went on to become the stuff of legend. The show, of course
A package of five films that are really rather good, and well worth the buy.
There is a moment whenever I’m browsing through the movie section of Wal-Mart, Target, or whatever dumb, big-box store I’m at that I get really excited to see a big bunch of movies bundled up tightly into a cheap package. “Five movies for ten dollars,” I think. “How awesome is that?” Then I actually look at the movie titles and am always disappointed. It is a nice marketing gimmick, of course, and they usually throw three movies in that are really rather good, but then they slip a couple of other real stinkers into the mix so that the actual
It is a brilliant show, the sort of thing that cable TV has gotten so good at lately.
A big thanks to Gordon for handling this column last week while I was away. As he noted I’ve moved. Again. We don’t actually move once a year as he joked, but he wasn’t that far off the mark. In the 12 years my wife and I have been married we’ve moved approximately eight times through four different countries, three states, and five cities. It's an exhausting way to live, but at least we never get bored. For the last 15 months or so, we’ve lived in a little house way out in the country. It was a lovely bit
Iain Glen's performance keeps the series afloat.
Jack Taylor (Iain Glen) is a bit of a lost soul. He wants to do good in this world but his big mouth and love for the drink keep getting in the way. He was in the Gardaí (a sort of Irish National Police) but was kicked out after he assaulted a politician he caught speeding. Now he works as a private detective and while he’s good at catching the bad guys, he’s close to useless on the business side of things. He’s partnered with Cody Farraher (Killian Scott), a much younger and less experienced lad who idolizes Jack and
Sometimes all you want at the end of a long day is a good, old-fashioned murder and some Belgian gray cells to solve them.
When it comes to Agatha Christie’s writing I tend to agree with Raymond Chandler who wrote about her type of writing: “they do not really come off intellectually as problems, and they do not come off artistically as fiction.” That is to say her crimes are completely unrealistic and her prose not particularly good. Yet, while I’ll always prefer Chandler and his contemporary Dashiell Hammett to the likes of Christie and her ilk, dear Agatha sure did know how to keep the pages turning and sometimes that’s all you want in life. Christie’s Poirot stories tend to always involve murders
I do very much enjoy Doctor Who in all of its incarnations and am very interested in how it began.
Though I do remember watching some Tom Baker-era Doctor Who as a kid, one probably needs to call me a new Whovian. As I didn’t start watching the new series until Matt Smith took over, I’m even a late new Whovian at that. I actually didn’t watch any of the Smith episodes but started the new series at the beginning with Christopher Eccleston and worked my way through until I eventually caught up a couple of years back. Though I may be relatively new to fandom, I fully embrace the Classic Who series. Back when I had Netfli,x me and
It's brilliant that these sorts of films are finding their way to DVD but...
The world has been making movies for roughly 220-plus years, producing approximately 300,000 films. That doesn’t include made-for-tv movies, featured videos, short films, documentaries, and anything not found in the IMDb database. That’s a lot of movies by any standard of measure. While the studios (both major and independent) do a good job of putting their new and catalog films to DVD, there’s still thousands of movies that have never made it to the home video market (and an even larger number that have not gone beyond VHS.) What a treat it is then for cinephiles all over that so
We're really quite lucky to have it, and ultimately, it is quite enjoyable.
It really is quite astonishing that they are finding various Doctor Who serials after literally believing them to be lost forever. Here at Cinema Sentries headquarters we threw quite a party when it was announced last year that all but one episode of The Web of Fear and the entire serial of The Enemy of the World had been found in Nigeria. They've only recently started to seriously scour the Earth for missing episode so who knows what they'll find next. The Enemy of the World is the fourth serial of the fifth season of Doctor Who. It originally aired
A darn good cast and a fascinating story is enough for me to make it this week's pick.
It occurs to me that the Classic Hollywood Star no longer exists. Stars like Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, and Audrey Hepburn had fame, fortune, style, class, and a certain glamorous mystery about them that you rarely find anymore. With TMZ and a million other celebrity blogs out there, we know everything there is to know about our stars - where they are, what they are doing at any given moment, and how they look when the evening gown comes off and the worn-out gym shorts go on. With Twitter and Instagram, these celebrities can give us their own inside glimpses
It's just the sort of story that Spike Jonze does well.
Spike Jonze is an immensely talented, eternally creative, and absolutely brilliant artist. Yet I can’t say that I really like him. Well, that’s not exactly true I do like him, but I find I don’t want to watch his films more than once. When Being John Malkovich came out, I thought it was just about the most imaginative thing I’d seen in a long, long time. It still is, actually, but over the years whenever I’ve tried to watch it again I can never make it all the way through. Its just not that enjoyable to watch. Ditto Adaptation. Wonderful
Well worth watching.
Having children changes you. I’m not talking about the sentimental Hallmark-card emotionalism that goes something like, “I didn’t know what love was until I had kids.” From my perspective that’s mostly BS. No, I’m speaking about how children completely wreck your day-to-day activities. We didn’t have our daughter until I was 35. I had a good life, full of good things. I’d watch movies, go to concerts, read graphic novels in their entirety at the book store, stay up late binging on TV, surfing the web, and blogging. That might not be the most exciting life, but it was mine
I'm kind of excited that they were able to publicly fund a movie so many years after cancellation.
There has been so much great TV playing over the last decade that its really impossible to keep up with it all. Sure, Netflix and Hulu make it easier than ever to catch up, and what you can’t find through streaming methods, you can buy fairly cheaply via full seasons of DVD collections. Still, there is just so much that's been produced and is continuing to air that unless you do nothing but watch television all day, every day you are going to be behind somewhere. I have a constantly updated list of shows I need to catch up on
Book Review: Superman: The Silver Age Newspaper Dailies, Volume 2: 1961-1963: Super-Ridiculous, Super-Fun
A terrific collection of strips that would otherwise be lost to the world.
Created in 1933, Superman has gone on to become one of the most popular and successful comic-book characters in the world. He has appeared in countless comics, newspapers strips, radio shows, and movies. In 1939, the character began appearing in daily newspapers where he remained a fixture of the comics page until 1966. The Library of American Comics in conjunction with DC Comics has binded together and printed for the first time a comprehensive collection of those newspaper strips. This book covers the years between 1961-1963 and contains over 700 individual strips. This era of the strip is notable for
For film buffs and those interested in movie history, it is essential.
As a self-confessed film buff, I have to admit that my knowledge is severely lacking when it comes to silent films. I’ve seen a couple of Charlie Chaplin movies, some Buster Keaton shorts, The Passion of Joan of Arc, and Nosferatu. That’s about it. I’ve tried a few others like The Birth of a Nation and about half of Metropolis. The thing is, I generally find silent films difficult to watch. Like various kinds of great art, silent films take a certain amount of education and practice to appreciate. Decades of fast-paced, dialog-driven movies have led me to expect a
I defer to the excellent quality Masterpiece has given us all in the past and hope they can pull this off.
I'll probably be labeled a terrible dad for admitting this, but there has been a lot of television watching in my daughter's three years of life. I know you aren’t supposed to watch TV with your children - you’ll rot their brains and all that. I know you are supposed to spend your days playing and educating and showing them the love of nature and all that. We do those things, too. On nice days we go outside, take walks, climb trees, trundle down slides, and explore the woods next to our house. On rainy, cold days we read, color
Thank goodness for the Criterion Collection.
You know its a slow week for new releases when a friggin’ Tyler Perry movie is the number-one seller on Amazon. Thank goodness for the Criterion Collection. Week after week, those guys present art-house, foreign, obscure, and fascinating films in the highest of qualities with terrific extras at a decent price. We love Criterion here at Cinema Sentries, and I want to always be talking about them in my Picks of the Week. I won’t always pick them, but never will I not give them a shout. Carl Theodor Dreyer is considered one of the masters of early cinema. He
There is lots of humor threaded through a story that is also filled with sadness.
My wife tends to avoid sad films, sad songs, sad everything. She says life is tough enough on its own without having to wallow through somebody else’s horrible story. I’m exactly the opposite. I love sad bastard tales. There is something cathartic about living vicariously for a time through another life full of heartbreak, death, and bleakness. Somehow knowing there are others out there suffering helps me sort through my own miserable existence. Or at least it makes me realize I’ve not got it that bad. Not at all. Philomena Lee had a hard life. At a young age, she
A nice set compiling two seasons of this classic show with really good video and audio quality.
Full confession right at the top: I’ve never, before this review, seen an episode of Maverick. I’m too young to have watched it on first run, and I’ve never been interested enough to sit down with reruns. I have however seen the 1994 Mel Gibson/Jodie Foster movie a dozen times or so, though only once intentionally. For reasons that probably have to do with the charisma of its stars, the PG rating, my age at its release date, and the age of various chaperones, I unintentionally caught the movie numerous times on youth retreats, college registrations, and miscellaneous other events
I’m looking forward to seeing this one very much.
I was born and raised in Oklahoma. This isn’t necessarily something I’m proud of. I mean I didn’t really do anything to be born nor raised there, but it is home. Or was. And is about to be again. I left as soon as I could for college in Alabama. That was plenty far enough away from home, and lovely. Though kind of the same, when you consider politics, religion, and general redneckedness. Then I came back to Oklahoma for a time. Left again. Got married, travelled the world, and came back. Left again for Tennessee, which is more of
An essential movie for any film fan to own. I won’t say the same for this particular release.
When you think about the Coen Brothers' 1996 masterpiece Fargo you likely think of it as a Frances McDormand movie. No doubt she created one of the more memorable roles of any film with Marge Gunderson (and won an Oscar for it), yet she doesn’t actually appear in the film until about 30 minutes in. No, if you are going by screen time or who the plot revolves around, then we must turn to Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy.) It is his incessant bungling of pretty much everything that moves the story from start to finish (with Marge cleaning it
We need more of these kinds of movies.
Philomena Lee had a child out of wedlock. This was in Ireland in 1951 so her father sent her to Sean Ross Abbey where the nuns gave her food and shelter and worked her to the bone. For three years they also raised her child (allowing Philomena to see her son only one hour a day.) Then they sold the boy for adoption to some rich Americans. Philomena never saw her son again. Philomena’s story is not unusual. Similar ones were played out hundreds of times all over Ireland. But she told her story to journalist Martin Sixsmith who made
An honor I’m sure Mr. Tennant will wear with pride.
It is a little embarrassing to say now, but I came to Doctor Who a bit late in the game. I knew the show as a kid, and I used to watch it from time to time through the Tom Baker years. But it was never something I sought out, or geeked about. When news came of the reboot in 2005, I more or less shrugged and went back to watching The West Wing, or The Wire, or whatever I was loving at the time. My wife was a much bigger fan as a kid and so she was a
For those who enjoy jolly good British comedies and something a little more slow paced, this is a rare delight.
Every couple of years or so, our representatives engage in egregious debates over public media. One Republican or another shouts that NPR is too liberal, that Sesame Street makes enough money on its own, and that we surely do not have the kind of funds to be blowing on radio and television programs when the world is drowning in too many programs already. It never goes anywhere of consequence, but stirs up the bases and brings up the hit counts of various blogs and websites. I admit to engaging in a Facebook debate or two on the subject, always standing
I’ll soon be adding it to my collection, where it will stand proud with all the other Martin Scorsese films and even prouder amongst all the Picks of the Week.
About this time every year when we get our tax refund back, the wife and I give ourselves a hundred bucks to blow and then tuck the rest away into some sort of savings fund. I always have enormous amounts of fun choosing things to buy with my wad of cash. The initial debate is whether to spend it on one relatively expensive item or to purchase many much cheaper things. Cheap usually wins as I really like getting lots of packages in the mail. Amazon is the place that tends to get my money. I have a wish list
I’m ready to put on a leisure suite, hang the disco ball, and live with this movie for a month, much less a week.
My mother often says I was born in the wrong decade - that I should have grown up in the '60s. She says this because of my affinity to the music and movies of that decade and for my politics and my rather hippy idealism. Sometimes I think she’s right. When I think about all the great music - from the Beatles to the Stones, the Grateful Dead to Bob Dylan - I wish I could have been there. Sometimes I dream of attending Woodstock or political rallies, of growing my hair long, smoking pot and tuning in, turning on,
You’ll likely never see me not pick a Coen Brothers' movie as my Pick of the Week.
If I were to remove my critic’s hat when you asked me to name my favorite director, I’d likely go with the Coen Brothers. Not that they don’t make critically acclaimed movies (for even the slightest perusal at their award nominations and wins will paint you a bright picture in that regard) but that without having to think too hard about a director’s artistry and allowing myself to simply bask in the sheer enjoyment of their films, the Coens tend to come out on top. It wasn’t always so. I can’t remember when I first saw their second movie, Raising
Bob Dylan: The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration (Deluxe Edition) DVD Review: Star-studded, Jam-packed, Mid-career Celebration of One of Rock's Greats
Only Dylan could get so many talented artists to come together and create such incredible music together.
The 1980s were not particularly kind to Bob Dylan. There were a few highlights including successful tours with Tom Petty and the Grateful Dead (though that grouping has plenty of detractors, the recordings present plenty of great grooves) and 1988 saw the beginning of what is now known as the Never Ending Tour, which has produced many of Dylan’s greatest performances ever. His work with the Traveling Willburys was good and Oh Mercy is a stand-out. But mostly it was a tough decade with rambling, incoherent albums and a great decline in relevancy in popular culture. The beginning of the
Book Review: Sherlock Holmes FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the World's Greatest Private Detective by Dave Thompson
An excellent pocket resource.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle penned only four novels and 56 short stories about Sherlock Holmes, the last of which appeared in 1927. In the not-quite hundred years since, the detective with the amazing deductive skills has permeated our collective imaginations, created his own archetype, and has been recreated on radio, television, comic books, the stage, and movies thousands of times over. He is one of the world’s most enduring and popular characters ever created. There is a dizzying array of adaptations and retellings of the stories out there. The classic stories and new inventions have been told and retold over
A nice send-off to the Eleventh Doctor, just not a great one.
The Time of the Doctor has all the tell tale signs of a Doctor Who episode under the tutelage of show runner Steven Moffat. It's thrilling, clever, funny, and very entertaining, yet crammed with too much stuff, overly referential, and ultimately rather shallow. On a small, isolated planet a mysterious message is being beamed across all of time and space. Outside the planet are hundreds of alien ships (including most of the Doctor’s enemies) all desperately trying to determine what the message says. The Papal Mainframe, led by Tasha Lem - an old friend of the Doctor - is protecting
It's the kind of thing Academy voters eat up as they obviously did last night.
The 86th Academy Awards show was on last night. It was watched by a lot of people. Usually I’m one of them. But this time I did my taxes. Or rather my friend who used to be an accountant did them. We’ve been trying to find a time that we could get together and get them done for weeks now. But bad weather, busy schedules, and sick kids have caused us to reschedule and reschedule again. So last night, even though I really do love the Oscars, I turned off the TV and set about my civic duty. The upside
Pretty much any toddler will no doubt love it.
It may surprise some, but Elmo the muppet has existed since the early 1970s. In those days he was nothing more than a background character on Sesame Street. Various puppeteers picked him up and tried to create a character, but nothing materialized. It wasn’t until 1984 that Kevin Clash raised him up and created the beloved character we know today. Since then, Elmo has become one of the most popular puppets in the world. In 1996 a plush toy, Tickle Me Elmo, was introduced and quickly became the Toy of the Christmas season causing near riots in malls when supplies
The trailers look stunning.
I’m really not a Sandra Bullock fan. She’s attractive and certainly charming, and I really can’t knock her acting chops, but there’s just something about her that makes me not like her. Perhaps its that she spent so many years making so many bad movies. Unlike Matthew McConaughey, who also made a slew of bad movies (some with Bullock), she didn’t start her career with interesting choices before going for the easy dollar. Both stars are now making interesting and critically acclaimed films, but while I’m quick to forgive McConaughey (and make his films my Pick of the Week), I
They decided to make some pretty big changes in order to set themselves apart.
By my count there have been no fewer than 12 movies, 16 television series, several radio shows, and countless comic books featuring Batman. With many more in the works. The character remains one of the most popular in the superhero universe. It is no surprise then that the Cartoon Network opted to make a new series, Beware the Batman, and that they decided to make some pretty big changes in order to set themselves apart from the very crowded Batman adaptation arena. It is the first Batman series to be completely CG animated. This creates a unique style for the
It's absolutely worth upgrading to this Criterion disk.
Like most great directors, Wes Anderson has created a very distinctive style for his films. They live in a world that is not quite real. It's a world filled with pastel colors and 1960s rock and roll. Where quirky characters do things that aren’t quite realistic, but neither are they unbelievable. Where every child has parental issues, and every parent is funny, adventurous, and sad. It is a world in which every scene, no matter how small or short, is filled with the tiniest of details, all distinctive to the director’s style. Wes Anderson films are like retro live-action cartoons
They do an amazing job of bringing these characters and the huge scope of their stories to the screen.
In the months after my daughter was born, I watched an enormous amount of movies and television. As anyone who has children can tell you, there simply isn’t much that you can do in those early days. The child, of course, cannot do anything on her own, relying on you to do everything from feed to change diapers to make increasingly silly faces in order to keep her from crying. We tried to take her out as little as possible to avoid all of the germs floating around public spaces, but also because taking a baby anywhere is an enormous
A lovely film though overly long and slightly racist to modern eyes.
Christian missionary Gladys Aylward was a diminutive, unattractive, uneducated, utterly British woman. So of course they got the tall, glamorous, immensely beautiful, and completely Swedish Ingrid Bergman to portray her in the movie version of her life. The Inn of the Sixth Happiness is in the historical epic tradition from the 1950s which was the decade of grand historical epics. It is a lovely film though overly long and slightly racist to modern eyes. Like most films based on real events, the movie plays pretty fast and loose with the facts, changing details where it sees fit, condensing time, and
The Internet has got me excited about something and that excitement gets passed around and shared.
In the world of science fiction I consider myself a fan, but not a fan-boy. By which I mean that while I do love many of the films in the genre - from 2001 to Alien, Close Encounters to Moon - I do not obsess over them. I don’t relentlessly watch every movie in the genre, nor endlessly debate the realities and potential realities of the films in online forums. I watch the films I hear good things about, sometimes like them (sometimes not), and move on to other films in other genres. I’ve also read very few books that
The Blu-ray has its flaws, but this is likely the best version we’re ever going to see of it.
People like to complain these days about the death of Hollywood, about how the studios have no original ideas, and everything is a sequel, a reimagining or a remake. But it seems to me that this has always been the case, at least to some degree. Even the most precursory glance through film history will show you that Hollywood has been adapting and remaking their movies since they started making pictures in the first place. James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice is as good an example as any. Written in 1934, the classic crime noir was adapted into
The Jungle Book (1967) Diamond Edition Blu-ray Review: The Definitive Version of a True Family Classic
After making The Sword in the Stone, story man Bill Peet came to Walt Disney claiming that they could do more interesting animal characters and suggested adapting Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Disney agreed, but took a more hands-on approach than he had during the last several pictures because The Sword in the Stone had received a rather negative reaction. In fact, Disney threw out most of the original version of the screenplay and fired Peet and composer Terry Gilkyson due to it taking on a darker and more sinister tone. Disney wanted something lighter and more fun. It is
Vera, Set 3 is a well-made, well-drawn series that would make an excellent part of anyone's mystery set.
Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope reminds me of Miss Marple (though that might just be her age and her sex) and Paddington Bear (though that might just be her hat.) Much like Miss Marple (and Paddington Bear, for all I know), she uses her gentile outward appearance and kind manners to hide a deep intellect and cunning insight, which throws off the people she questions and criminals she’s chasing. Vera, Set 3 contains all four made-for-television movies from Series 3 of the British series. It stars Brenda Blethyn as DCI Stanhope and David Leon as her Detective Sergeant Joe Ashworth.
A recipe for my Pick of the Week.
I believe I first saw Matthew McConaughey as "past his prime, but still picking up high school girls" David Wooderson in Richard Linklater’s wonderful Dazed and Confused. But I didn’t really recognize him as someone to watch until A Time to Kill. That movie was supposed to make him a star, but it failed to make it big with audiences and the buzz around McConaughey kind of died with it. He made a few other critically acclaimed films but mostly sank into romantic comedy schlock that undoubtedly made him plenty of bank and lots of women fans, but lost his
A well-made, atmospheric, beautiful series from Jane Campion.
A young girl, all of 12 years old and pregnant, wades into a lake at the top of a mountain on the bottom of the world. We are unsure if she is trying to induce a miscarriage or kill herself. Before either can occur, she is rescued. When her pregnancy is determined, the police investigate, but she is either incapable or unwilling to cooperate and within a couple of days, she has vanished completely. Suspicions fall on her father, Matt (Peter Mullan) the local drug lord and his clan of sons. Maybe one of them got her pregnant and killed
I pretty much make all of his new releases my Pick of the Week.
When I was a pubescent teenager I used to stay up late on Friday and Saturday nights watching the USA channel and their Up All Night programming. It was hosted by Rhonda Shear and Gilbert Gottfried who would make jokes and do skits during commercial breaks. They showed mostly bad b-movies (and Friday the 13th marathons if the calendar matched) into the wee hours of the morning. I watched religiously. I learned to love low-budget horror flicks and ridiculous Porky’s rip-offs (and Rhonda Shears' legs) during those years, and it's all stuck with me decades later (especially those legs, yowza!)
A lovely portrait of real characters with real problems played realistically.
Few actors are able to fully ensconce themselves inside a character as James Gandolfini did with Tony Soprano. He simply was that character and that character was him. For six seasons, Gandolfini became Tony Soprano and gave one of the most nuanced, heartfelt, incredible performances ever seen. So much so that public perception of the man tends to lend itself to feeling that Gandolfini must be the dangerous, angry mobster he portrayed so realistically. Yet to talk to his fellow actors and real-life friends is to hear that he was nothing of the sort. He is often described as a
Over two hours worth of sketches that are sure to keep any ankle biter enthralled.
I do not have cable or satellite, but I do have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter. This combination means there is a lot of PBS Kids programming going on in my house. One of my favorites and hers is Sesame Street. I have very fond memories of watching it as a child and now as a dad it's a really wonderful thing to watch her get excited over the adventures of all those furry little monsters. Of course, the show has changed a great deal since I was a kid. They hardly show any of my favorite characters anymore. Big Bird, Snuffaluffagus,
Because it features one of the most tense, carefully crafted scenes in all of cinema.
In the middle of Jules Dassin’s 1954 film noir Rififi, which is the father of all heist movies, lies a 28 minute safe-cracking sequence. It is so spectacular in its execution I am surprised anyone has ever tried anything similar since. But of course many others have tried, but none have come even remotely close. This robbery takes up nearly a fourth of the films running time, is shot without a bit of dialog or background music, and yet is one of the most tense, carefully crafted scenes in all of cinema. The fact that the rest of the film
Apologies for those who love their rednecked water-fowl, and foul-mouthed animated spies.
Some weeks you gotta ignore the masses and pick what you want. Okay, admittedly I pretty much do that every week, but this week I'm doing it more than usual. Duck Dynasty is a cultural phenomenon. They say it' s the biggest reality show to appear on basic cable ever, and judging by Facebook chatter and t-shirts for sale at Wal-Mart, I believe them. It's also become very controversial. One of the Robertson clan recently said something ugly about gay people and was suspended by A&E until he wasn’t. Social media lit up over the affair and I had to
Joseph Gordon-Levitt attempts to deal with how fantasy worlds collide with our real ones, causing untold problems and unhappiness.
Our entertainment culture creates fantasy worlds that can never live up to reality. Pornography brings us beautiful women with perfect bodies who are willing to satisfy our every sexual urge - no matter how perverse or degrading - with no strings attached. They don’t ask you to pick up the check, do the laundry, or even cuddle afterwards. Similarly, Hollywood creates romantic movies in which opposites always attract, everybody changes for the betters and the endings are always happy. In Don Jon, writer, actor, and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt attempts to deal with how these fantasy worlds collide with our real
I like Gordon-Levitt a good deal, and it's impossible not to watch Scarlett Johansson in anything she does.
Welcome back. I decided to take last week off because me, the wife and the wee one were off visiting the wife’s folks in Kentucky along with all her siblings and assorted others. My little one brought with her a nasty bit of a head cold and she kindly passed it around to pretty much everyone under the roof. Including me. Especially me. My cold turned into sinusitis with an especially nasty ear infection. Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas, and welcome to the health clinic on Christmas Eve. So I was in no mood or shape to write a column
The movie is good and representative of this classic period of Hollywood filmmaking.
The most interesting part of The Call of the Wild didn’t actually take place on screen. It seems the very married Clark Gable had a torrid love affair with costar Loretta Young and impregnated her. Young decided to keep it, but due to the strict moral code at the time had to disappear to Europe through most of the pregnancy and later pretended to adopt what was in fact her very own child. Though often rumored, this story was not confirmed until 1999. This has nothing to do with the actual film, of course, but its a fun bit of
It's compelling stuff that's both fun thrilling and meaningful.
Detective Zane Malik (Don Hany) is a tough, smart, and sometimes difficult detective working in the elite Major Crime Squad on the police force of Sydney, Australia. He’s also a Muslim living in the racially divided country in a post-9/11 world. Like all detectives, he must live with the daily grind of dealing with some of the worst, most hardened criminals around. Drug dealers, gangsters, murderers are all faced down, fought, and captured on a regular basis. There is also the balance of family to contend with in a schedule that isn’t exactly 9-5. But unlike most cops, Malik must
It looks to be an intense, violent, really good bit of cinema.
While I am very much a fan of horror, gore, violence, and bloody, anger-filled cinema, my wife is most certainly not. This means I do not get to watch them in her presence. She doesn’t mind if I watch them on my own; she just doesn’t want to to be involved. This was no problem as I’d just watch them when she was off to work or had gone to bed. Even for the first couple of years of our daughter's life, this was no biggie as I could throw it on while the girl was napping or playing with
Though a bit dated and terribly inaccurate, it is a joy to watch and is immensely entertaining.
Jesse James was a notorious outlaw, bank and train robber and murderer. Historically speaking, he was nothing but a violent and horrible human being. Yet while he was alive, he was celebrated as a Robin Hood-type character and since his death, his legend has continued to grow. As it so often happens, the mythological person has turned into a much better person than the actual human ever was. There have been untold number of stories and books written about him, songs have been sung since just about the moment the “coward” Robert Ford shot him down. There have been more
A recommendation from Scorsese and the Criterion people makes this collection an easy choice.
With some regularity we invite various people, usually university students, over to the house to watch films. Several of them come regularly and we’ve developed something of a disorganized film-studies class. Not that I am qualified to teach such a class but we have great fun, and learn a great deal, watching these films and then discussing them together. Usually these films are of the foreign variety. I’m rather proud of my foreign-film collection actually. We own over 200 foreign films and are constantly buying more. Again, I don’t consider myself an expert but rather an ever-learning student. One of
The film comes highly recommended.
Walt Disney pursued the rights to P.L. Traver’s Mary Poppins books for decades before she finally relented. Even then, she retained script approval and was apparently a pain in everyone’s chim chim-in-ey throughout the entire process of making the movie. She rather hated the final product and bad-mouthed it until the day she died. One can understand how a writer might be protective of their work and might be hesitant to allow movie-makers (even one as beloved as Walt Disney) to have their way with the writings. But in this case one has to wonder if there wasn’t something terribly
What makes it watchable, even rather enjoyable, is the two main actors.
You could say that I’ve been a fan of crime dramas, police procedurals, mystery shows, or whatever you want to call them most of my life. From Remington Steele and Moonlighting to Law and Order and The Closer to The Shield and The Wire, I’ve watched thousands of hours of people committing crimes (usually murders) and cops, private eyes, journalists, priests, and little old ladies solving them. The best shows tend to subvert or break out of the confines of the genre and show us what its like to be a cop, or the humanity of a criminal, and say
A very nicely priced set of a really wonderful show.
I really thought that the first week of December would find us with loads of great new releases. I really thought wrong. I guess with Black Friday and Cyber Monday over by the release date they figure our wallets are empty and they needn’t bother much with this week. Looking over the next few weeks of releases as we inch towards Christmas, I see there are some much bigger releases coming so I guess they are hoping our wallets get a little fuller as the month goes on. This week’’s pick is a boxed set of a short-lived Showtime series
A pick to be thankful for.
Who knew a show about an average, normal guy turned very, very bad (or as show creator/runner Vince Gilligan used to say Mr. Chips becoming Scarface) could be so popular, culturally significant, and so very, very good? On paper, a television show about a regular, boring chemistry teacher slowly becoming the biggest, baddest meth dealer in the Southwest sounds like a long shot. Two decades ago, it would have been laughed out of the drawing board. But in this new era of television, one ripe with anti-heroes like Tony Soprano and Don Draper, a show like Breaking Bad can not
A straight-up classic Tom Baker-era Who.
Like a lot of Americans of a certain age - that is to say old enough to remember Doctor Who before the modern series - Tom Baker is my Doctor. From my understanding, the show didn’t really air in America until Baker’s run in the late '70s. His incarnation as the Fourth Doctor was certainly the one that got the most mileage in reruns being shown over and over again on PBS. In fact, it wasn’t until I started watching the modern series that I realized there were other Doctors besides him. As such, he is my favorite of the
A pretty grand thing when you get down to it.
Agatha Christie was as prolific a writer as she was popular. According to Guinness, she is the best-selling novelist of all time. She has sold some four billion novels and her works have been translated into at least 103 languages. At her death, she had written 66 mystery novels, six romance novels (under the pen name Mary Westmacott), 153 short stories, 22 plays/radio plays/teleplays, and a handful of other works. Hercule Poirot is, perhaps, her most famous and long-lived characters, and possibly her best. She wrote 33 novels featuring the Belgian detective and more than 50 short stories. He has
To say that when it came out on DVD it would be my Pick of the Week would be putting it exactly.
The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy is not so much a trilogy as it is three films made by the same people with the loose theme of satirizing a very specific genre. In fact, the entire trilogy is named after a joke. Cornetto’s are a type of ice cream snack in England and after characters ate some in both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz an interviewer pointed out the connection and director Edgar Wright joked that it would be a trilogy in the vein of Krystof Kieslowki’s Three Colours Trilogy (with a different colored Cornetto representing different themes in
It's good, but not nearly good enough.
There is something about ghosts, and ghost stories that I just can’t buy into. I have no problem with other supernatural beings. I’m cool with demons and vampires, werewolves and zombies. I love me some creature features. But for some reason I can only rarely suspend my disbelief for ghosts and spirits. One might think that ghosts would be easier to accept than the others as many people across the world believe in their actual existence and they are not far from the spirits that religions of all types believe are real. Perhaps this is the reason I find fiction
A terrific bit of television.
In television and in the movies, Internal Affairs officers are often seen as out of touch with real police work, bullies, and even masters of corruption themselves. Often they are the antagonists going after our heroes (or anti-heroes) and trying to stop them from performing their duties. Almost always Internal Affairs is the enemy. In reality, we ought to be very thankful for Internal Affairs as they are what stand between us and corrupt cops. It should also be said that the line between good cops making mistakes and true corruption is a thin one and can be very difficult
It stands right up there with my all-time favorites.
My transition from a kid who really liked going to the movies to a full-blown cineaste was long and slow. In junior high the opening credits of To Kill a Mockingbird showed me how beautiful a movie could be. The rest of the film was both beautiful and extraordinarily moving. A little later, Night of the Living Dead proved to me that even a horror movie could be artful. Over time, movies became more than just an entertaining diversion, but genuine Art with a capitol A. Late in high school. I caught the last ten minutes or so of Nosferatu.
Quite charming in its own way.
By my count, The Three Faces of Eve is only the second movie ever to deal with Multiple Personality Disorder (or Dissociative Identity Disorder as they now call it.) The first was Lizzie which was released but a few months before Eve and it didn’t do nearly as well critically or commercially as Eve. In 1957 when these films were released, the general public knew very little about the disorder (and in truth it is still controversial and widely misunderstood.) In the fifty-odd years since then, there have been countless movies, television shows, and books involving multiple personalities both realistic
Spiral Season 2 is fantastic television.
The original title for this French crime drama is Engrenages which literally translates to "gears." That’s fitting as the show is comprised of many smaller parts that sometimes fit (and sometimes grind) together to create a larger machine. The English translation of Spiral works better if you add on spiral of violence as it concentrates on the ever-downward spiral that crime and corruption causes. I have not watched any of season one so I must admit up front that there may be intricacies of plot and nuances of character that I have completely missed within season two. This season is
A classic American film about classic Americans gets the nod.
Halloween has just ended. Thanksgiving is still weeks away. Is it too early to start thinking about Christmas? The makers of home video apparently think not for they sure have released a bunch of nice looking Blu-rays and DVDs that are sure to go on my Santa’s wish list. It was difficult to choose just one thing as my Pick of the Week, and likely I’ll change my mind if I think about it some more, but for now I’m going with the 30th anniversary of Phillip Kaufman’s masterful telling of the early days of the Space Race in The
Move Me Brightly: Celebrating Jerry Garcia's 70th Birthday Blu-ray Review: Old and New Heads Celebrate Captain Trips
A truly remarkable bit of history.
There’s a moment in the middle of Move Me Brightly where David Hidalgo talks about the time Jerry Garcia showed up back stage just before Los Lobos was about to perform. He says they chatted for a bit and then he invited Garcia to join them onstage for a few songs. Garcia then flashed his tickets with a smile and said he was there to enjoy the show. In a great many ways that sums up Jerry Garcia perfectly. He was first and foremost a fan of music. By all accounts, he was a living, breathing encyclopedia of music history.
B-movie producer Roger Corman somewhat famously used to tell his directors that they could make his movies anyway they wanted but they had to have either a scene of violence or of sex every fifteen minutes. The producers of the Johan Falk Trilogy must come from the Corman school of movies, though they tend to focus more on the action than the sex. Within the opening scenes of the first film, Zero Tolerance we find Johan Falk (Jakob Eklund) in a post-coital glow with one of his coworkers quickly followed by a bloody shoot-out and car chase. It hardly slows
This is certainly not my most glowing Pick ever.
Pixar. Its name is associated with quality. The company almost single-handedly ushered in a new era of brilliant animation that is both kid friendly and cherished by adults. In 18 years they have made 14 feature films and almost every one of them have been golden. For most of that time, you could go to a film with Pixar's name attached to it and know nothing else about it and know that you were getting a quality picture. Then with Cars 2, their first non-Toy Story sequel things began to slide. That film was a critical bomb and when announcements
In 2010, a massive earthquake struck Chile. Writer/director Nicolás López was there and one of the things that struck him was not only the terrible destruction that the quake caused but how ordinary citizens suddenly threw away all the bounds of conventional society. Looting was rampant as well as sexual assaults, rape, violence, and murder. In discussions with Eli Roth, they decided to make a movie about that very thing. I'm right there with them, that sounds like an excellent concept for a movie. Unfortunately neither of them were able to create something interesting from that initial idea. It is
It's probably my favorite Christmas movie ever.
For much of my life I was a hum-bug. I hated Christmas and all its crass commercialism. I do like my family, and spending time with them is always enjoyable, but the rest of it I'd just assume throw out. Oh sure, I like to get presents but the whole "I bought you something so you have to buy me" exchange we do at Christmas makes it less than special. I hated the crazy people at the post-Thanksgiving sales. I hated the overcrowded malls. I hated the tacky sweaters, the ridiculous ornaments, the bad movies, television specials, and music. Oh,
If you like b-grade vampire movies, this one's pretty well done.
When I heard there was a remake of the 1995 erotic vampire flick, Embrace of the Vampire, I had but one response which was - and I think I speak for the entire Internet here - why? The original is really rather terrible. The only reason anyone saw or remembers it was because Alyssa Milano, fresh off of her Who's the Boss fame, got naked in it. She isn't in the remake so it seems ridiculous that they'd make it again. I suppose they figured they'd get a little press - albeit likely scornful - for it and as they
Embrace of the Vampire (1995) Blu-ray Review: Would Be Forgotten Were It Not For Alyssa Milano's Assets
This isn't a show-off disk, unless by showing off one means presenting high-definition celebrity nudity.
Pardon me while I get pervy. In my day if one wanted to see celebrity nudity one had to work at it. There was no Google, there was no TMZ, no Mr. Skin, no Celebrity Nude Database where one could look up a celebrity and find out exactly which movie she was naked in, how much skin she showed, and exactly what part of the movie to fast forward to in order to see the skin. No, if we wanted to see naked celebrities we had to go to the theatre, or rent the video and hope for the best.
While it embraces the horror genre, it manages to rise above it as well and present itself as a masterful work of art.
In the 1950s French critics and cultural purveyors thought that horror films were beneath them. Monsters and gore were not the sort of thing French filmmakers should bother with nor the cultured filmgoer should watch. The filmmakers mostly agreed but the public was becoming enamored with such British horror films as The Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula. Producer Jules Borkon decided the critics could stuff it and embarked upon making a new French horror film. He enlisted director Georges Franju (a documentary filmmaker who was just then making his first fictional film, Head Against the Wall) to help
Despite my inability to fall in love with all things Joss, I'm very excited about his take on this Shakespearian comedy.
I have a geek confession to make. I'm not really a fan of Joss Whedon. I don't hate him. He's made some enjoyable things. I like Buffy the Vampire Slayer - it's a very fun show with some brilliant episodes but with far too many just decent ones to elevate the entire show into more than just a good category. I've tried to get into Firefly a few times but can never get past about the third episode. The Avengers was a good superhero movie, but nothing more. Etc. I admit that Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog was brilliant, but he's
I'd put it in league with something like Monk or Moonlighting.
Inspector Montalbano (Il commissario Montalbano) is a popular Italian crime drama based upon the detective novels of Andrea Camilleri. It stars Luca Zingaretti as Detective Salvo Montalbano (though he acts more like a police chief or at least a detective supervisor and in fact there is some internet debate over whether or not the title is mis-translated and should instead be something like Commissioner Montalbano, but I digress) who solves crime in the fictional town of Vigata, Sicility. Assisting him are his deputy Mimi (Cesare Bocci), Detective Fazio (Peppino Mazzotta) and the bumbling assistant Catarella (Angelo Russo.) Like most European
There's no picks like double-dips.
I want to say that it is impossible to hate The Wizard of Oz, but if the internet has taught us anything it is that there is always someone around who hates everything. If you browse the message boards of IMDB at all, you'll quickly see detractors calling whatever movie you are looking at stupid, boring, pointless, plotless, and without merit. Of course there are then always fans of said film who will call the detractor things like neanderthal, brutish, stupid, and will make suggestions that this moron go back to the message boards of lesser films like Transformers. I
Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series DVD Review: Lots of Changes Make For a Less Than Steller Doctor
I liked the first half of Series 7 much more than the latter half.
The seventh series of Doctor Who was unusual for several reasons. It was broken in half with the first part airing in the fall of 2012 and the second part not airing until the spring of 2013. We said goodbye to the Ponds and hello to Clara, who turned out to be the ongoing mystery of the second half of the series.. It was the final season for Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor. All of these changes took its toll on the series, making it not quite as good as many of the ones before it. While it is
How could it not be?
I watched Doctor Who periodically as a kid. It wasn't a show I loved, or made sure I was home to watch, but if it was on and nothing else was, I'd sit still for it. This was during the Tom Baker years and honestly I have very few memories of the show except for his long scarf and one episode that I caught late at night that spooked me enough to wake up my parents though I was probably 13 or 14 years old. I was late catching on to the new series as well. My wife used to
To be sure, Homeland: Season 2 is good television.
The line between a great show and a really good one is a thin one. For me it is all about resonance - the ability of a show to stick with you long after it's gone. That and a show's ability to say something about the world outside of its fictional space. Shows like The Sopranos, The Wire' and The West Wing not only were immensely entertaining, but also shone a light on our own culture and who we are as a people. Really good shows can be very well made, and entertaining but fail in either their ability to
Sofia Coppola has proven herself to be a true auteur, a director with a clear and concise vision.
Sofia Coppola has only directed five films in her entire career. I've only seen three of them, and I wasn't all that fond of The Virgin Suicides. And yet, I still consider her to be one of the more interesting directors making films today. This is largely based on how much I love Lost in Translation. It is a near perfect film for me. It is funny, sad, lyrical, poetic, moving, and wonderfully made. It contains both Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson's best work. Coppola shows she learned a lot from her famous daddy and imbues the film with a
A fascinating bit of Who history.
In 1989 after 26 seasons, Doctor Who was cancelled. There continued to be various radio programs and novels, but the television series was effectively dead. In 1996, a television movie was produced by an American studio but the ratings were not good enough to turn it into a regular series again. The series was so dead that as the 40th anniversary of the program began to creep closer the BBC had no desire to celebrate the still-very-popular series. The Doctor Who website, at this time, was very popular and the managers of the site had previously created some very rudimentary
A wonderful portrayal of these characters and of life.
Our monthly Foreign Film Night is typically very sparsely attended. This is not unexpected as one cannot plan for a lot of people in small-town West Tennessee to come to a showing of a very old, expressionist German film about a child murderer, or b-grade Norwegian ninja flick. I think about it a lot though, and how we might get more attendees. One problem is that I think when most Americans think of foreign cinema they think of European art-house fare, which is to say they think the films are difficult, intellectual, arty, and incomprehensible. That isn't fair, of course
Now and again, I like to throw on some goofy slasher flicks and relive memories through hundreds of pointless, over-the-top violence.
I grew up in the late '80s/early '90s and slasher flicks informed my early film life. Sort-of. My parents wouldn't let me go see those movies in the theater and with few exceptions they wouldn't let me rent them either. But thanks to the USA Network and there tendency to show bad horror movies on Friday and Saturday night (and there was always a Friday the 13th marathon any weekend that included that unlucky number) I got to see lots of Freddie, Jason, Mike Meyers, and the rest. At least in edited form. A great deal of that early love
Whatever the reason, there is a ton of stuff coming out for lovers of all things boob tube.
It is a weird week for releases. There is a ton of television coming out - both old and new plus several boxed sets of previously released seasons, but very little in the way of interesting films coming out. I've pondered in these pages numerous times before how they decide on what to release and when, and I'm doing it again. Was it purposeful that we have so many television sets out this week and so few big movie releases? It makes perfect sense to release the previous seasons set just before the new season airs on television. Likewise, I
Critical reception has been mostly poor and it didn't fair any better at the box office, but I'm still willing to give it a shot.
I read The Great Gatsby when I was in high school, or possibly early in college. Whenever it was, I knew that it was often considered to be The Great American Novel, but not enough to understand why. I wasn't particularly impressed with what I read. Later, I began to read essays and reviews that explained why it had been critically acclaimed for so long and I developed an appreciation for, well if not for the actual book, for what it stands for, its deeper meaning. I had a similar experience with the film Citizen Kane. Upon first watching it,
Ought to be seen by anyone who is interested in what the medium can do and certainly is a must-see for all mystery fans.
At the time Prime Suspect first aired In 1991, there were only four female DCIs (Detective Chief Inspector) working in London. Jackie Malton was one of them and it is her story that show creator Lynda La Plante took as inspiration for the series.The fictional Jane Tennison (played to perfection by Helen Mirren) is a fierce, driven, hard-nosed, hard-boiled police officer who has clawed, scraped, and bloodied her way to the rank of DCI and spends the rest of the series fighting against sexism, politics, institutionalized racism, and her own personality to stay there and eventually rank even higher. The
A great introduction to Pertwee's Doctor.
There is a lot of trivia connected to Spearhead from Space but it is not at all a trivial episode. It was the first serial of the seventh season. The first to star Jon Pertwee as the Doctor and Caroline John as his companion Dr. Liz Shaw. It was also the first Who to be shot in color. That last bit combined with the fact that a strike caused the series to be shot entirely on film (usually at least part of an episode would be shot on cheaper-looking video) makes this the first Classic Doctor Who to be released
Amour seems much more accessible than the rest of Haneke's work and I suspect I'll be watching it soon
I rarely go to the theatre anymore - too much trouble, too expensive, and audiences are way too obnoxious. Even when I do, it is rarely to see a small, critically acclaimed drama. The nearest city is still a small one, and while they have three movie theaters, they all play the same movies and they are always the biggest, shiniest, most expensive films out and never anything you'd consider small, art-house or critically acclaimed. I don't tend to read a lot of movie reviews either, and accepting the occasional Movie Recon on these pages, I don't really pay that
The Mindy Project is very silly and has not a inch of real depth but it's tons of fun.
I have an odd relationship with the American version of The Office. For the first few seasons I loved it. Though my wife found it obnoxious, every Thursday evening I'd kick her out of the living room so I could sit and watch it in peace. It was awkward and funny and sweet and really one of the best comedies on television at the time. Somewhere around season five I tuned out. It wasn't that I no longer enjoyed the show, or didn't find it funny it was just one of those weird life things. Where before I was home
Thanks, Technology, for making me interested in films like The Sapphires.
Sometimes it pisses me off knowing that I'm gonna die before so much cool stuff is invented. Every day I am amazed at how many incredible things already exists and I know even more mind-boggling stuff is coming. The fact that I won't be around for all of it depresses me to no end. My mother used to joke about how we were so privileged as kids. Like many of her generation, she would tell me stories of how she had to walk ten miles to school (uphill both ways in the snow, of course) and she did her homework
You could call it the Swedish "The Closer" if you wanted.
In my recent review of Annika Bengtzon, I noted that there are many crime dramas able to push through the clichés of the genre and still create good television. With great writing and good characters, the plots can still be contrived and I'll still be riveted. Detective Inspector Irene Huss is one such show. Irene Huss (Angela Kovacs) is the lead detective for the Violent Crimes Unit in Gothenburg, Sweden. She has a curmudgeon-y old-man boss who cringes at her no-nonsense methods; a group of eclectic, wise-cracking police on her team; and a loving family at home. You could call
I'm ready to let Cinemax show me they can make good quality original programming just like their sister channel.
There is so much good, interesting TV on these days I can hardly keep track. At the beginning of this year, I intentionally slowed down my movie watching just so I could keep up with the various television series that I've wanted to see for a long time. Still, I find myself way behind on all the shows I'd like to watch. HBO used to be the best player in the game but now we've got AMC, Showtime, PBS, FX, and many others creating innovative, interesting, top-notch television. Recently, Cinemax entered the game trying to thrust off their softcore pornography
Annika Bengtzon, Crime Reporter: Episodes 1-3 & 4-6: By-the-Book Swedish Crime Drama Needs a New Author
I found myself wishing each episode was done by about the halfway point.
If you are a TV producer looking to make a new, popular, and successful new show, the logical choice is to do some sort of crime drama. Historically, those things make buckets of money all over the world. If you don't want to have your primary characters be actual police detectives - because that would be too cliche - you still have a myriad of ideas to choose from. Your protagonists could be medieval monks who happen to solve mysteries, or Catholic Priests, or medical examiners. Or maybe you could go with a private detective or a little old lady.
Coppola still knows how to shoot a beautiful film; it's just too bad he's forgotten how to write one.
It should probably tell the viewer something that Twixt - a film written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Val Kilmer, Elle Fanning, and Bruce Dern - was only shown in theaters at festivals before going straight to video. Yeah, a movie with those names behind it that can't get a nationwide release is not going to be any good. Still, this reviewer couldn't help but get his hopes up.Coppola says the idea for the film came to him in a drunken dream in Istanbul. Before the dream could end, the call to prayer woke him and he
I'm totally on board and looking forward to seeing what Boyle has in store.
I don't always love Danny Boyle's movies, but they are always interesting. From the pounding music and jump-cuts of Trainspotting to the more meditative 127 Hours, Boyle has proved himself over and over as a director who knows exactly what he is doing. Even when his films miss (The Beach, Sunshine), I'm never bored and never feel like I've wasted my time. His newest film, Trance, reviewed by Sentry Lorna Miller, is a psychological thriller that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, it also blurred the lines between critically acclaimed and critically trashed. Earning a 68% fresh on Rotten
An odd film that never really should have worked, and yet it does.
Laura is a murder mystery in which it really doesn't matter who actually committed the murder. It is a love triangle that generates about as much heat as my refrigerator on the lowest setting. It is a film noir without many of aspects one generally associate with such films. It is a movie in which the titular character is the least interesting of the cast. Yet despite all that it is really a marvelous bit of cinema. The film begins with narration by Waldo Lydercker (a delightful Clifton Webb) who explains how much he cares for Laura (Gene Tierney) and
An absolute must-have for any lover of film.
About once a month, we host a Foreign Film Night at our house. We invite a few friends over, we munch on some grub, imbibe some drinks, enjoy a film, and then sit around talking about it. Always, it is a great time. Normally we don't pick out the film beforehand. Sometimes, there will be a specific genre planned or maybe we'll grab a few choices but then we let whoever is coming take a vote. This past March we held a bonus film night, a special Easter presentation, and I specifically chose Babette's Feast for us to watch.It is
Word is director Fede Alvarez took the basic story ramped up the adrenaline and gore and made a terrific, no-frill horror flick. That's enough to get me on board.
People love to slag on sequels and especially remakes. Whenever one is announced, the Internet explodes with righteous anger calling the remake stupid, ridiculous, a complete failure, and a slew of other words not fit to print. This is especially true with remakes of beloved genre pictures. Technology has made the world small and now fans of obscure movies in various genres be it sci-fi, horror, or rainbow ponies can bond together with other like-minded folks across the planet. We love to geek out at the good and raise our collective middle fingers to the bad, even if we've not
I don't expect to really like the results, but I'm definitely interested.
It makes a certain amount of sense that actresses who have spent their childhoods on squeaky clean television shows to want to break free from that image whether in their careers (Elizabeth Berkeley in Showgirls) or their personal lives (Lindsay Lohan battle with the law and drugs.) These women have grown up in front of millions of people yet no doubt their real lives are much different than the made-for-children characters they play every day on the small screen. Who wouldn't want to show the world they are mature adults after that? It makes a certain amount of sense that
It features David Simon a great deal and I've never been disappointed in anything he's ever been involved with.
Several months ago I made a very deliberate decision to avoid the news in general and politics in specific. It isn't that those things aren't important, but that my obsessions with them were driving me crazy. I would spend entirely too much time debating politics on Facebook and Google+ and any of the various other social sites out there. I'd pace the house in a fury coming up with just the right wordage to put my opponent in his place. I'd Google for hours making sure all my points and beliefs were just exactly perfectly correct. I'd get mad, I'd
The show is crass, rude, disgusting, and very, very funny.
Based upon an Australian show of the same name (which itself was based on an award-winning short film) Wilfred is a comedy about a man named Ryan (Elijah Wood) and his dog Wilfred, (Jason Gann) who happens to talk (and curse, and drink, and smoke pot, and hump everything in sight.) Or at least he appears to do those things in Ryan's eyes, but appears as a normal dog to everyone else. The reasons for this duplexity are as yet unexplained and the mystery is one of the central points to many plot points. At the end of Season 1,
How did I let this slip through?
Every week as I write this column I am amazed at just now many movies are released each week. Hundreds of titles enter the vast ocean of DVDs and Blu-rays already in existence, all asking to be bought, to be watched. Admittedly many of them are low-grade, low-budget Z-movies being released in the cheapest of ways, or films in the public domain getting cheaply reproduced to make a quick buck and then there is the Girls Gone Wild-style of pornography that seems to reproduce like bunnies. Still, after taking away all that garbage, there are still dozens upon dozens of
The more you watch the more you want to see.
Based on a series of 10 novels by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, Beck is a Swedish crime drama that revolves around a group of murder police in the city of Stockholm. The MHZ Networks have been showing the series via their television stations and continue to release it on DVD.Volume 7 and 8 contains three episodes a piece (Vol. 7 contains episodes 19-21 and 8 has 22-24.) Like many European crime dramas, each episode is really a movie - with a run time of 1 hour 30 - which allows it more time to develop its story than the
If you like films at all, you'll likely find something to enjoy from this week's releases.
It is a great week to be a movie fan. This week's DVD/Blu-ray releases have a little something for everyone. There is a big-budget 3-D action adventure flick, a couple of British dramas, and a couple more '80s horror flicks getting collector's editions. A cult Korean filmmakers debuts his first English language thriller, a huge cast of stars make a daring comedy that was quickly panned by everybody, and there is a huge collection of classic films getting some nice treatments from Criterion and Kino. If you like films at all, you'll likely find something to enjoy from this week's
From time to time in this weekly series I like to discuss the ways and means to which I choose my Pick of the Week. I've previously mentioned how I like to pretend that some kind soul is giving me one DVD or Blu-ray from the week's releases. And so my pick is simply what I would choose to receive on any given week. Well, this week I really was given a copy of my choice. Criterion has kindly allowed me to review their Blu-ray upgrade of Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries. I have seen the film before and absolutely adore
A fully rewarding film with great emotional wealth and intellectual grace.
I am 37 years old. With luck, I'll live another 37 before I die. At the middle of my life, I try not to partake of the crisis that effects so many at this age, but I do admit to periodic bursts of looking back - at the things I've done, the places I've seen, the accomplishments I've achieved, and the people I've known - and comparing them to where I thought I'd be when I first began. The man I dreamed I would be as a child is many fathoms away from the man I became.I do not possess