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Friday, September 30, 2005

New Movie/DVD Reviews from Combustible
Have I been complaining about being too busy over the past couple of weeks? I didn't know how good I had it! The Toronto and Mill Valley film festivals have brought dozens of filmmakers and movie stars out of the woodwork, all clamoring to talk to the press about their movies. I've spent almost the entire week in the dark or in hotel rooms and have barely had a chance to write. Nevertheless, here's the dope on the week's releases.

I was late in catching up with the horrible Green Street Hooligans, and it felt like time wasted. Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist wasn't nearly as good as I'd hoped, but it's still the week's best release. First runner up would be Lodge Kerrigan's Keane. The Jessica Alba diving movie Into the Blue and The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio weren't too bad, but nothing to write home about either. Paul Reiser's The Thing About My Folks is a true labor of love, but ruined by a piece of bad directing.

In DVDs, the wretched remake of The Amityville Horror comes out this week, and I finally got a chance to skim through last spring's box set of the 1970s and 1980s MGM originals. The Muppet Show: Season One wasn't quite as good as I remember it, and The Muppet's Wizard of Oz isn't good at all. Then we have the definitive, deluxe version of To Kill a Mockingbird, an excellent edition of the Japanese nunsploitation classic School of the Holy Beast, and three new discs in the Shirley Temple Collection (but where's John Ford's Wee Willie Winkie?).
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 9/30/2005 Comments (8)
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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Coppola's Return
Francis Ford Coppola is set to return to directing after an eight-year break with Youth Without Youth, an adaptation of a Romanian short story, AFP reports. The film, which Coppola will self-finance, will star Tim Roth, Alexandra Maria Lara, Bruno Ganz, and Marcel Iures.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 9/27/2005 Comments (0)
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Monday, September 26, 2005

Scorsese's No Direction Home airs tonight
Just a reminder that the first part of Martin Scorsese's documentary on Bob Dylan, No Direction Home, airs tonight at 9 p.m. (ET) on most PBS stations. In the UK, both parts will be shown on BBC Two's ARENA series. For those who prefer their cinema in shiny plastic form, it's also now available on DVD.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 9/26/2005 Comments (0)
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Friday, September 23, 2005

Robert Altman Chooses P.T. Anderson as Next Robert Altman
Premiere Magazine recently reported that 80 year-old Robert Altman, before beginning his latest film A Prairie Home Companion, was required to select a replacement director for insurance purposes, just in case anything happened to him. Not surprisingly, Altman chose Paul Thomas Anderson, who has been compared to Altman again and again for his Nashville-like epics Boogie Nights and Magnolia, not to mention his clever use of Shelley Duvall singing "He Needs Me" (from Popeye) in Punch-Drunk Love. Though the whole thing is a bit gruesome, it's also comforting to know that -- God forbid -- when Altman passes on, his legacy will continue in a weird way.

But it makes you wonder: who will replace some of the other aging masters? Ingmar Bergman released an extraordinary new film this year, Saraband, that barely anyone bothered to see. Will anyone care when he passes on? Who else can do icy angst like he can? (Woody Allen has attempted it, but that's another story...) Who will be the next Martin Scorsese? Jean-Luc Godard? Clint Eastwood? Hayao Miyazaki?

Ultimately, I guess, replacing the masters isn't really the point. That's why they're masters in the first place -- because there's no one else quite like them. Sitting through Allen's Interiors instead of one of Bergman's classics is example enough. Anderson may have channelled Altman for his first few films, but it was just long enough to get his footing. Punch-Drunk Love revealed a whole new side to him, and I suspect that, Altman-esque or not, Anderson may have quite a bit of his own mastery to offer.

By the way, I always have to add the disclaimer that I am not related to Paul, nor am I related to Wes, Pamela, Anthony, Gillian or Brad. (Nor am I that guy who was in Clerks.)
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 9/23/2005 Comments (3)
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New Movie & DVD Reviews from Combustible
At last! After several pitiful weeks of dull, heartless movies, this week finally brings a handful of new must-sees. Of course, we still have the usual dull, heartless ones, like Flightplan, Proof and Thumbsucker, but we also have David Cronenberg's latest masterpiece A History of Violence, Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, a vast improvement over most of his recent works, documentarian Thomas Riedelsheimer's follow up to Rivers & Tides, Touch the Sound and Liev Schreiber's admirable attempt at adapting the very difficult novel Everything Is Illuminated. Additionally, I caught a late screening of Green Street Hooligans last night, and my review is not completed, but suffice to say -- you're not missing anything.

I also recently got to speak with Scrheiber about his new movie, and an interview with Cronenberg is pending, since the director has been sick in bed.

The new DVDs keep rolling in. I recently received two giant box sets, one containing ten Greta Garbo films and one containing 15 Alfred Hitchcock films, plus documentaries and extras. I guess I'll be sequestered in front of my TV this weekend. Meanwhile, I checked out Sony's spectacular restoration of Sam Peckinpah's Major Dundee, surely one of the year's best discs, plus Jia Zhang-ke's excellent Platform -- which never had a U.S. theatrical release -- and a new, extended version of Brian Helgeland's underrated A Knight's Tale. Also The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl came out this week, complete with four pairs of 3D glasses, as well as David Zucker's Scary Movie 3.5, extended by about one minute from the theatrical release.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 9/23/2005 Comments (0)
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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Evil Dead 1 & 2 Limited Edition Details
There's been a bit of confusion over what exactly the Evil Dead 1 & 2 Limited Edition set being released on November 22nd actually is, with no picture or details listed at Amazon or other online retailers. Well, we just got confirmation from Anchor Bay that it is, as many suspected, both "Book of the Dead" editions of the movies packaged together. What's more, only 20,000 copies of the Limited Edition double set will be available, after which the Book of the Dead edition of the first film will apparently be gone for good.

We'll have a complete review of the new Book of the Dead edition of Evil Dead 2 shortly.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 9/21/2005 Comments (0)
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Tarantino Talks Grind House
Quentin Tarantino has spilled some details to MTV about Grind House, the exploitation double-feature he's collaborating on with Robert Rodriguez. Tarantino said his half of the movie would be called "Death Proof", a slasher film "but instead of a knife, it's a car". Rodriguez's section will be a zombie film called "Planet Terror". The pair will also be filming a series of fake trailers to screen between the two films, with Tarantino hoping to do a sexploitation trailer called "Cowgirls in Sweden."

In other Tarantino news, the director still says that his next project after Grind House will be his World War II epic Inglorious Bastards but, contrary to previous rumors, it apparently won't unite Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

[Via AICN]
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 9/21/2005 Comments (0)
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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

DVD Review: Steamboy
by Donald Melanson

Steamboy was one of the most anticipated anime films in recent memory -- it was, after all, the first feature film by Katsuhiro Otomo since his legendary Akira (1988). But as with many other wildly anticipated follow-ups, it's nearly impossible to live up to everyone's expectations, and Steamboy is a bit of a letdown when compared to Otomo's previous work. But if you can forget that movie for a minute (I know, not an easy thing), Steamboy is still quite a good film, although one with its fair share of faults.

Continue Reading >>
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 9/20/2005 Comments (0)
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Monday, September 19, 2005

DVD Review: The Nomi Song
by Ian Dawe

For the past two weeks, The Nomi Song has been haunting me. It's not just the figure of Klaus Nomi, the doomed singer whose story this documentary tells that's been the cause of the haunting. It's something more basic than that. It's a great story, well told. Cinema shouldn't be (and isn't) completely and exclusively about great stories told well, but there is room in the medium for it, and it certainly shouldn't matter if that story is told through a conventional dramatic narrative or a documentary.

The Nomi Song is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen. That isn't an insult, nor is it a minimization of the film's narrative accomplishments. It's a beautiful, compelling examination of a character that floats through his story in the way all great characters do. It's filled with compelling and original music, real emotion, ups and downs, triumphs and challenges, original, creative storytelling and visual stylization - everything we go to the movies to see. So, when I say that it's a great documentary, what I really mean is that it's a great film.

Continue Reading >>

:: posted by Donald Melanson, 9/19/2005 Comments (0)
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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Errol Morris Interviewed
The Onion AV Club interviews documentarian Errol Morris: "I saw Gates Of Heaven again about a year ago, at Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival. I sat next to Roger. I hadn't seen it in probably a decade. And I thought, 'This is fucked-up!' That's the nicest thing you can say about a work of art."
:: posted by Matt, 9/18/2005 Comments (0)
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Friday, September 16, 2005

New Movie & DVD Reviews on Combustible
It's another slow week, and I'm just counting the hours until awards season starts, and hopefully, some good films along with it. This week's high point is the limited release of Jia Zhang-ke's newest masterpiece The World. Otherwise we get two routine horror films, Venom, and Cry_Wolf (the latter of which was not screened for the press), and a routine romantic comedy, Just Like Heaven. I also caught up with a deadly dull French comedy, Cote d'azur.

In new DVDs, I'm excited about the new Greta Garbo box set, and I updated my reviews of Queen Christina and Ninotchka accordingly. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy happiliy stood up to a second viewing at home, but The Longest Yard remake is better suited for the cut-out bins. In other classics, I added reviews of Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be and Werner Herzog's incredible directorial debut Signs of Life. Two non-fiction films make their DVD debut as well, both disappointing outings from famous comedians: Sam Kinison: Outlaws of Comedy and the lightweight, likeable John Cleese:Wine for the Confused.

Have a great weekend!
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 9/16/2005 Comments (0)
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Robert Wise (1914-2005)
Robert WiseBesides being American film legends, what do these names have in common: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, John Ford, Orson Welles, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, Val Lewton, Dorothy Arzner, Lucille Ball, Robert Ryan, Susan Hayward, Gort the Robot, Steve McQueen, Brigitte Bardot, Rita Moreno, Julie Andrews and Captain Kirk? One man worked with them all -- Robert Wise.

The veteran filmmaker passed away in Los Angeles this week at the age of 91.

Wise landed his first job in the shipping room at RKO studios, where his older brother was an accountant. He lugged film cans up to projection rooms, spliced films together, etc. He soon got a shot at an assistant sound editor, working on Fred and Ginger musicals and John Ford's The Informer (1935). He then worked his way up to assistant film editor with films like Fred and Ginger's The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), then a full fledged editor with his own assistant.

Fate knocked on his door when Orson Welles fired the studio-appointed editor on Citizen Kane, and Wise got the job because of his youth. He was hired again for Welles' second film The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), but when disaster struck for Welles, the young Wise got his first big break. After Welles flew off to South America to begin filming his would-be third film It's All True, The Magnificent Ambersons began to receive disastrous test notices and the studio ordered it cut. Wise cut some 25 minutes out of the film, and was forced to direct several new "bridge" scenes for continuity's sake.

Two years later, the legendary B-movie producer Val Lewton was working on The Curse of the Cat People (1944) and found that he needed to fire the first director for moving too slow. Wise got the job and finished the picture quickly, going on to direct two more outstanding films for Lewton, Mademoiselle Fifi (1944) and The Body Snatcher (1945).

Wise was nominated for seven Oscars; winning four of them (two for Best Director and two for Best Picture for West Side Story and The Sound of Music) plus the special Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1967.

I had the honor of interviewing Mr. Wise in 2001, and he was a kind soul, quick to laugh, and a great storyteller. He will be missed.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 9/16/2005 Comments (0)
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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

AICN at Tarantino Film Fest
Ain't It Cool News has been offering day by day reports from the 6th Quentin Tarantino Film Festival happening now in Austin. So far there's been a secret agent night, an all night 80s horror marathon, and an Australian night. Up tonight is World War II Epic Night -- a hint of things to come from QT perhaps?
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 9/13/2005 Comments (0)
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Monday, September 12, 2005

Vintage Hitchcock Interviews
The BBC has recently re-posted a number of interviews with legendary director Alfred Hitchcock. Recorded during the mid-1960s, the director reflects on a number of interesting aspects of his illustrious career. You can listen here.
:: posted by Ian Dawe, 9/12/2005 Comments (0)
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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Roger Corman signs DVD distribution deal with Disney
Monsters and Critics reports (via UPI) that Disney has struck a deal with Roger Corman for the DVD distribution rights to his library of more than 400 films. There's already lots of Corman movies on DVD but most are in the form of low-budget, public domain titles of widely varying quality. No word yet on when the first titles will be released.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 9/11/2005 Comments (0)
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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Long Time Coming
The Guardian reports on the British black comedy Room 36, a film that took 11 years to make: "During a decade of calamities, the investment ran out, one of the main actors died, the leading man had gained weight and the master negative suffered serious damage which would have been fatal but for the restorative abilities of digital imagery." (via Sore Eyes)
:: posted by Matt, 9/10/2005 Comments (51)
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Friday, September 09, 2005

New Movie Reviews on Combustible
OK. Move along. Nothing to see this week folks. Move along. Go back and see Transporter 2 again...

Because, trust me, it's just not worth the money or the time to sit through: The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Man, A Sound of Thunder, Underclassman or An Unfinished Life.

In new DVDs, I thoroughly enjoyed the simple pleasures of Disney's Vintage Mickey as well as the more difficult pleasures of Jean Luc Godard's Weekend (New Yorker). I finally finished Warner's Film Noir box set with Robert Wise's nasty Born to Kill, and Strand released one of the year's most satisfying foreign film experiences, Head-On. I also checked out the very likeable documentary EXPO: Magic of the White City. Fox issued The Transporter: Special Delivery Edition to help cash in on its new sequel, and I very much enjoyed seeing it again. I can't say the same for Mindhunters, however.

:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 9/09/2005 Comments (0)
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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

DVD Review: Ghostbusters Double Feature
Ghostbusters is probably the most popular movie to emerge out of the Saturday Night Live/SCTV/National Lampoon nexus of the 1970s and early 80s -- a scene that also gave us films like Animal House, The Blues Brothers and Stripes. It also must be of the top movies that people watch over and over again -- I think I've seen it at least a dozen times.

Continue Reading >>
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 9/07/2005 Comments (0)
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Monday, September 05, 2005

Review: Screen Door Jesus
by Ian Dawe

I couldn't help asking myself as I watched this sweet, charming southern tale - are there really people this medieval and superstitious still living in the world today? Sadly, I think there are, but that shouldn't prevent anyone from enjoying Screen Door Jesus on its own terms.

Against a rich backdrop of quirky characters and southern culture, this film tells a series of interconnected stories set in one small Texas town around the topic of faith and religion. One thread involves a white hypocritical Bank manager and his treatment of a black fellow churchgoer. Another explores the romantic entanglements of the mayor with a sexually aggressive, manipulative woman. Another follows the story of two seedy characters who invade the town drilling for oil beneath the lake. Still another tells the story of two boys, one black and one white, and their changing relationship with regards to religion. The central event in the film, though, is the appearance of a vision of Jesus on an old black woman's screen door, which rapidly becomes a place of pilgrimage.

Continue Reading >>
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 9/05/2005 Comments (0)
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Friday, September 02, 2005

New Movie & DVD Reviews on Combustible
Here's the newest latest. I appear to disagree with every other critic in the country by liking Transporter 2 and not liking The Constant Gardener. But what're you gonna do? Also opening this week, we have the mediocre documentary Reel Paradise, a step down for director Steve James (Hoop Dreams).

In new DVDs, I love the new The Bela Lugosi Collection from Universal, featuring five Bela Lugosi movies -- including my favorite, The Black Cat. I'm still picking my way through Warner Home Video's excellent Film Noir Collection from earlier in the summer, and it's time for Dillinger, a nasty little "B" film with lots of energy. Otherwise, the week finishes off with stuff like: The Suckling, Arthur Penn's Target and Wonder Woman: The Complete Third Season. Enjoy!
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 9/02/2005 Comments (0)
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