Sunday, May 29, 2005
Reflections on Sirk
The online edition of Bright Lights Film Journal serves up a 1977 back issue devoted entirely to Douglas Sirk. Plenty of references to mirror images and phallic symbols, I'm sure.
Friday, May 27, 2005
New Reviews at Combustible Celluloid.com
I've been busy this week on Combustible Celluloid. In addition to new reviews of Dominion: The Prequel to the Exorcist, Kontroll, The Longest Yard, Madagascar, Mysterious Skin and Tell Them Who You Are, I've added 18 new DVD reviews. Check it out!
Howl's Moving Castle really moves
I caught a screening of Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle this morning, and though I don't think it quite beats Spirited Away's masterpiece status, it certainly is an extraordinary achievement, and a feat of breathless magic that should put other so-called entertainments, like Madagascar, to shame.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
To Come: R-Rated Frights
Clive Barker In Horror Film Pact - "Variety is reporting that horror (and comics) scribe Clive Barker is partnering with Jorge Saralegui in a new production company, Midnight Picture Show, with plans to scare up two R-rated horror films per year based on Barker's extensive catalog of stories."
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby worthy of deluxe new DVD release
Was Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby overrated? I don't think it was. It snuck out at the end of 2004 with so little buzz that it took us all by surprise. I saw it in the middle of the year-end blitz of award movies, and it stood on its own without any hype. It deserved every success it got. Warner Home Video has recently announced a DVD package worthy of a great film. The three-disc set will include: "James Lipton Takes on Three: Roundtable with Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman and Moderator James Lipton, recorded the day after the Academy Awards," "Born to Fight: Examines the Parallels of the Movie to Real-Life Boxer Lucia Rijker" and "Producers Round 15: Behind the Scenes with the producers." The third disc will be the CD soundtrack, with music by Eastwood and Lennie Niehaus. I'd love to hear an Eastwood commentary track someday, but he's never done one and probably never will. A two-disc version will sell for about $30 and the three-disc version is about $40.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Big Bucks No Ouchies
Slate: Nicole Kidman's Knee - Or, How The Insurance Business Runs Hollywood. Edward Jay Epstein examines the increasing role of ballooning insurance policies in movie production budgets.
Movies on PSP taking hold
USA Today reports on the fairly rapid growth of UMD movies, the proprietary format used for Sony's PlayStation Portable. Five of the six major studios are now releasing movies on the format, with a total of 70 titles in stores or coming soon, and two movies, House of Flying Daggers and Resident Evil 2 (both released on April 19th), have now sold more than 100,000 copies each. A number that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment president Benjamin Feingold is quick to point out took nine months for the first DVD title to hit.
Monday, May 23, 2005
Time's Top 100 Movies
Time Magazine's list of the top 100 movies (as chosen by Richard Corliss and Richard Schickel) is more interesting than most, mixing in quite a few surprises with near-mandatory choices, although I can't believe they left out The Rules of the Game. The two Richards also take part in a podcast discussing their choices.
Quentin Tarantino Wrenches Guts with CSI Finale
I'm only a casual "CSI" fan, but I tuned in Thursday night to see what Quentin Tarantino would do with his 2-hour season finale. I had eagerly watched his small-screen debut in 1994 on an episode of "ER" and found it indistinguishable from any other episode. But this time was different; this "CSI," entitled Grave Danger, went straight for the throat. It also gave actor George Eads (as Nick Stokes) a chance for some Emmy gold for his role as the unwitting CSI agent buried alive for an excruciating length of time. When Uma Thurman awoke to find herself in a similar situation in Kill Bill, at least QT didn't keep her there for long. (He seems to have the worst "buried alive" fetish since Poe.) The episode also featured some other terrific QT touches, such as clever uses of rock music, snatches of dialogue lifted from other movies, and creative cameos by John Saxon, Tony Curtis and the late Frank Gorshin, shining in his final role. All in all, this 120 minutes of television sends everything else around into tears of shame.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Sith snags $158.5 million
We're not going to get in the habit of reporting box office numbers every weekend but... holy crap.
Friday, May 20, 2005
"It could be called extreme filmmaking. The assignment: write and produce a four- to seven-minute-long movie in a single weekend." The Christian Science Monitor reports on the 48 Hour Film Project, a frenetic competition to conceive, film and complete a short film in less than two days.
Critics Approve of 'Sith,'... Mostly
Despite its curmudgeonly detractors, including the New Yorker's Anthony Lane, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith so far rates an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 71% in the "Cream of the Crop" section. It's definitely a hard movie to review. If you're not already a fan (Lane was not) it's hard to get inside this universe. If you are, it's hard to read and judge the new movies objectively. I've seen the new movie twice, and I'm increasingly impressed at how well it snaps all six movies together into a cohesive whole. We'll see how the general public likes it.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Germaine Greer in The Guardian: "Looking back over half a century to the meteoric career of James Dean, the one thing that now seems obvious is that the boy was as queer as a coot." Good read. (via IFC blog)
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
This Just In: Cannes Voters Hate America!
Reuters: American way of life attacked in films at Cannes. Lars Von Trier's Manderlay joins Farenheit 9-11, Elephant, Dancer in the Dark and others in the Cannes pantheon of films portraying a less-than-flattering view of life in the U.S. But we already know that's what makes them interesting.
Star Wars Poster Art In Detail
The terrific PosterWire weblog contains recent posts which examine two classic Star Wars posters - the original's D "Circus" style and The Empire Strikes Back.
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Finally Dance on DVD
Part of the reason Warner Home Video has been leading the DVD revolution is that they've got all the old RKO and MGM movies in their vaults, and while other studios have seemingly exhausted their back library, Warner just keeps 'em coming. Now they've announced the long-awaited debut of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals. "The Astaire and Roger Collection - Volume One" will come with five films, four from RKO (Top Hat, Swing Time, Follow the Fleet and Shall We Dance) and one from MGM, the couple's final film, The Barkleys of Broadway. The discs come with commentary tracks, cartoons and other featurettes.
Friday, May 13, 2005
Courteney Cox Tackles The Longest Yard
I'm currently watching Paramount's new The Longest Yard Special Edition DVD and quite enjoying it. It comes with a trailer for the new Adam Sandler remake, and it confirmed something that Courteney Cox told me when I interviewed her at the recent San Francisco International Film Festival: "I had just had my baby, and I think they only hired me for two reasons." Without saying much more, Courteney's red dress from that movie ought to be enshrined. Her other new movie, the very good low-budget thriller November, opens in July.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Wallace & Gromit & Cannes
Nick Park's animated feature Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit had a splashy preview at Cannes today. And look, here's the teaser poster. I am now officially jazzed.
Gregg Araki's "Mysterious Skin" Rash
I had a chance to check out Gregg Araki's newest film, Mysterious Skin, and I found it extraordinary. It tracks the lives of two boys after a summer in which they were both molested as children. One (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) grows up to become a hustler and the other (Brady Corbet) becomes a recluse obsessed with UFOs. Rather than the usual brutal, finger-pointing approach, this film takes a moment to delicately find the pain in the subject matter, and even manages a couple of moments of heartbreaking beauty. (The film co-stars Elizabeth Shue and Michelle Trachtenberg.) The Christian critics, however, have reviewed the film and claim that it potentially violates child pornography laws. This is ridiculous, of course, and my friend Lewis Tice at TLA Releasing has gone on record to defend the work. I hope this flack doesn't result in the movie being pulled from release, because it truly deserves to be seen. It only goes to prove my theory that the Religious Right never actually watches the films it complains about.
HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival
Via Kottke.org: the schedule of free movies showing in NYC's Bryant Park all summer long, including the original Fly starring Vincent Price, plus White Heat, Touch of Evil, and Jaws, among others.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Shrek Sales Dip, World IQ Rises
It was recently reported that the sales of the Shrek 2 DVD did not live up to expectations. Dreamworks hoped to sell 40 million units and only sold 35 million. Perhaps people finally got wise to the fact that this film is terrible. In a related story, I was recently at the Madagascar junket and Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg buckled under pressure and revealed the plot for the upcoming Shrek 3. Shrek is tired of ruling the kingdom and discovers that the queen has a nephew; so everyone hits the road to find him and put him on the throne so that Shrek and co. can go back to the swamp. I'm sure there will be more fart jokes and pop culture references. (Just like Madagascar!)
Another interview with Xan Cassavetes to go with the MovieMaker interview Donald just posted. Cassavetes directed a fascinating-looking documentary on defunct Los Angeles cable channel Z for the Independent Film Channel. Z's eclectic programming, heavy on hard-to-find foreign and cult films, endeared it to a generation of Angelenos in the '70s and '80s. IFC premiered the doc last Tuesday, with a few more reruns this weekend to accompany several hours of Z-inspired programming.
Corliss Cannes Coverage Commences
"Film is our religion, and Cannes marks the beginning of our liturgical calendar." So say Mary and Richard Corliss, who have just kicked off their joint coverage of Cannes at Time.com.
Tarantino interested in doing TV show
Quentin Tarantino, who directed the season finale of CSI airing next week, told TV Guide that he's interested in doing a show of his own, AICN reports. Tarantino said that "This [directing the "CSI" season finale] was testing the water. There are some ideas that I've had for movies that are too long. Most people aren't down with four hour movies. But TV has caught up with my aspirations. You could truly do these stories as a TV show." Maybe if he can't do the Bond movie he wants, he could do an update of Secret Agent.
Spring MovieMaker (and a bit of shameless self-promotion)
I have an article in the spring issue of MovieMaker Magazine on twenty great films that never won an Oscar for best picture but should have. Other features from the issue that are now online include Jennifer Soong's interview with Xan Cassavetes, Jessica Hundley's intervew with Todd Solondz, Bob Fisher's look at the renewed interest in Super 16, and Matthew Power's instructions for how to make a tracking dolly, dimmer box and camera crane. But there's even more great stuff if you buy the print edition, which should be available at a newsstand near you right now.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Ebert on Oprah
Roger Ebert popped up on Oprah the other day to give a tour of his Chicago townhouse and recommend a few essential DVDs everyone should own. In case you missed it, you can watch the video here (don't worry, you don't have to sit through the whole show).
Hollywood's Bummer Summer
New York Times: Hollywood reels as Kingdom of Heaven's lackluster opening adds to a year of disappointments (registration req'd). "'It does take more to get people out of the easy chair and to the theater; movies have to be so much more compelling,' said the president of Exhibitor Relations, Paul Dergarabedian." Gee, you think?
Inquiry into Pasolini murder reopened
As the BBC reports, investigators in Rome have reopened the inquiry into the 1975 murder of director Pier Paolo Pasolini. This comes after new statements made by the man imprisoned for nine years for the murder as well as those by a close former aide. Rumors abounded in Italy at the time that the murder was politically motivated, due to the director's Marxist leanings, but this was never proven.
- via Masters of Cinema
Saturday, May 07, 2005
Mindjack pal (and erstwhile contributor) Bryan Alexander has undertaken a fantastic project, blogging Bram Stoker's Dracula according to the book's own calendar. And since this is a film blog, be sure check out a few great Dracula movies after your in the mood. You can get all the Universal films in one set for about $20US, including the original Bela Lugosi/Tod Browning classic, as well as the underrated Dracula's Daughter and Son of Dracula -- even the Spanish version of the original Dracula shot at the same time on the same sets. And if you want to make a full film fest out of it, check out Christopher Lee in Horror of Dracula, F.W. Murnau's Dracula by another name, Nosferatu, and Canadian Guy Maddin's ballet-meets-silent film Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary.
Friday, May 06, 2005
Star Wars: Episode VII - Return of the Junketeer
I just got back from the Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith junket at Skywalker Ranch. As a longtime Star Wars fan -- I saw the original release at age 8 -- it was the thrill of a lifetime, even though I despise the impersonal nature of junkets. My George Lucas interview took place at a table full of 15 other reporters and we had a total of 20 minutes. It's a mad scramble, not unlike a pack of hyenas snapping at a single gazelle. (Three questions were asked, all of them stupid, none of them mine.) Still, I got to see the new film at Skywalker's impressive screening room, projected digitally, and it was truly amazing. I enjoyed it very much, though it may take some time to sort the film itself out from the overall experience. I can't say much more here at the risk of "jumping" a review, but I will say that the overall acting has improved 90% and that the film ties in nicely with Episodes IV-VI, and even casts a whole new light on them.
Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson in Cannes
One of the most exciting events at Cannes this year is not a new movie; it's the rediscovery and restoration of Beyond the Rocks (1922), a long-lost silent classic directed by Sam Wood (A Night at the Opera) and starring Rudolph Valentino (The Sheik) and Gloria Swanson (Sunset Boulevard). Though he was one of the screen's all-time most popular luminaries, Valentino died at the young age of 31, leaving very few films behind, so every one of them is a gem to be treasured. Martin Scorsese has already provided a breathless blurb for the film, beginning with "It's a precious gift... A cause for celebration!" I'm sure Cannes will show the film in some magnificent venue with a brilliant live score (Henny Vrienten has composed a new one), but the rest of us poor earth-bound folk will have to wait for a potential stateside theatrical release, or, failing that, Milestone's DVD release.
Boston Globe: Yielding to pressure, Loews to list films' actual starting times. "Facing growing audience rage at the proliferation of product ads in theaters before the start of feature films and trailers, the company has decided to list the actual starting times of the features, in addition to the official times that, increasingly, bear no relation to reality."
Cronenberg and Egoyan talk Cannes
The Toronto Star talks to David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan about Cannes and their latest films, which are both in competition at the festival. Cronenberg's A History of Violence and Egoyan's Where the Truth Lies are each said to be the directors' most commerical films to date, although Cronenberg doesn't seem to mind that label, saying: "I pray that they're right about that" and going on to say that: "Our first reaction was that these movies are going to be too commercial for Cannes. We had to be talking into submitting them. But the programmers said to us, `We showed Shrek and Pulp Fiction won the Palme d'Or, so it's not like we don't show commercial movies.'" The Palme d'Or will be handed out May 22.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
Cine Mexicano on TCM
Turner Classic Movies, aka Best Damn TV Channel In The Universe, begins its Cine Mexicano monthlong film fest tonight with a night of five Luis Bunel classics. Later Thursdays will pay tribute to Mexican stars such as Cantinflas, Maria Felix, and Dolores Del Rio. Es muy bueno.
Big Red Signing
Speaking of The Big Red One, if you're in LA you might want to get yourself down to Laser Blazer tonight for a signing with the cast and crew of the film, including Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Kelly Ward, Ken Campbell, Joseph Clark, Perry Lang, and composer Dana Kaproff, as well as members of Sam Fuller's and Lee Marvin's families. Richard Schickel, who helped restore the film, will also be there, as will Brian Jamieson and Brian Hamblin, who produced the reconstruction. 40 limited edition one-sheets will also be up for sale, so it's probably best to get there early if you want one.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
A Girl and a Gun and Godard
If you're looking for a primer on Jean-Luc Godard you could do a lot worse than reading this lengthy post on the excellent A Girl and a Gun blog. Breathless is still my favorite Godard film, although I just recently watched My Life to Live and it sure isn't far behind.
Killer of Sheep restored
Over on Filmjourney, Doug Cummings comments on a recent screening of Charles Burnett's landmark independent film Killer of Sheep, which was recently restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and should get a DVD release by the end of the year. Doug says: "As for the film, it deserves every bit of the acclaim it has received as one of the few authentic, sensitive, and complex portraits of inner city black community. In some ways, it reminded me of the semi-autobiographical works of Terence Davies, the British filmmaker whose emotional memory films are constructed as dramatic vignettes layered with evocative music from the era, rather than traditional storytelling."
For further reading, here's an interview with Burnett, from Senses of Cinema.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Samuel Fuller's The Big Red One Reconstructed on DVD
If you missed the theatrical release of Samuel Fuller's The Big Red One: The Reconstruction last fall, now is your chance to see it on DVD. Along with Kino's Edison box set, it's my favorite DVD of the year so far. In 1980, Fuller saw his film butchered and hacked down to two hours for general theatrical release. In 2004, Film critic/historian Richard Schickel spearheaded an effort to get Fuller's magnum opus restored to something closer to the director's original vision. Fuller boasted that the film should have run four hours, but Schickel discovers that two hours and 42 minutes does the trick quite nicely. Lee Marvin stars in one of his finest performances as a crusty sergeant who leads a platoon of dogfaces (Mark Hamill among them) around the European countryside during World War II. There's no real plot, just a series of incidents loosely based on Fuller's own experiences, but they range from comical to clever to heartbreaking to downright awe-inspiring. I loved the original, but this new cut is a true masterpiece, and one of the two or three greatest war pictures ever made. Warner Home Video's new DVD comes with a slew of wonderful extras, both on the restoration and on the making of the film itself.
Lineup in Lego
The spectacle of fans camping out in line for the Revenge of the Sith premiere at Grauman's -- rendered in Lego (via Defamer). Astonishing.
Steven Soderbergh Branches Out
Soderbergh Embarks On Ambitious Project (AP) "The Oscar-winning director has formed a partnership with 2929 Entertainment to direct six films that would debut simultaneously in movie theaters and on DVD, pay-per-view cable and satellite television."
NYT on Schrader's Exorcist Prequel
Dave Kehr has a great article in the New York Times (registration required) about Paul Schrader's version of the Exorcist prequel, now titled Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, which is about to finally get a limited theatrical release with a DVD likely to follow. Kehr also provides a good overview of the whole Exorcist prequel saga, in case you're not up to speed on it. In one interesting tidbit, William Peter Blatty (author of the original Exorcist novel and director of Exorcist III) recounts going to a screening of Renny Harlin's version of the film with Paul Schrader: "After a slam-bang opening sequence, Harlin's prequel deteriorated into what was surely the most humiliating professional experience of my life, particularly the finale. I don't blame Renny Harlin, for he gave Morgan Creek, I promise you, precisely what Morgan Creek demanded: not shocking obscenity, but shocking vulgarity."
[Via Movie City News]
Monday, May 02, 2005
Dead Ringers Back on DVD and Here to Stay
For whatever reason, David Cronenberg's masterpiece Dead Ringers (1988) has had an unfortunate relationship with home video. The VHS release was a $10 cheapie. The Criterion Collection corrected that in the mid-90s with an extraordinary laserdisc packed with all kinds of extras, but has -- obviously -- gone out of print. Then Criterion released a DVD with all the same goodies from the laserdisc. It, too, went out of print. Anchor Bay Entertainment also released a DVD that went out of print. Finally, finally, Warner Home Video has come to the rescue with a new DVD, to be released on June 7 at $19.96. It will feature "a new audio commentary by Jeremy Irons, a behind-the-scenes featurette, cast/filmmaker interviews and filmographies, the theatrical trailer and more." If you haven't seen this maddeningly brilliant work, don't hesitate. It truly is one of the most unforgettable works of cinema ever produced.
Sunday, May 01, 2005
Michael Powell Retrospective
A Director for Whom Nothing Exceeded Like Excess - in Sunday's New York Times, Terrence Rafferty offers a critical analysis of Michael Powell's work to coincide with a restrospective at the Walter Reade Theater. (registration required)
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