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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Endings Are Harder
So, after three cuts of my little film (which, by the way, is part of my MA program from the University of Exeter), I've decided to take the Coppola-esque move of re-writing the ending... and, indeed, re-shooting the ending. Endings are important, obviously. Third acts are notoriously difficult to write intelligently. Most Hollywood films end in an action sequence, but others don't. As Roger Ebert has pointed out, Alex Proyas' masterful Dark City actually contains a reasonable and dramatically justified third act. How I wish I had Alex Proyas writing my movie...

At least my lead actor is willing to come in for re-shoots. There's lesson number six (for those counting): always stay friends with your lead actor. You just never know...
:: posted by Ian Dawe, 11/30/2005 Comments (3)
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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

'Aeon Flux' Not Available for Review
After sitting on their hands for days and days, Paramount finally made their announcement this morning: Aeon Flux will not be screened for the press. You know what that means, folks. It's a stinker. Unfortunately, the last movie that did not screen for the press, The Fog remake, did bonzo business in its opening weekend. So maybe the execs know what they're doing. Nevertheless, I'm out a paycheck on this one...
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 11/29/2005 Comments (1)
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Shooting a Movie Is... Hard
If I sound a bit like Forrest Gump this morning, it's because I've just looked at all the rushes from my short film, "The Christmas Party", shot in Nelson, BC this past weekend. It's a draining experience, being a director. It's like having to juggle six balls at once while balancing on a unicycle and still smile and sing "Stairway to Heaven" without forgetting the words.

Here are three lessons I'd like to pass on to other first time directors based on what I've learned from the experience:

1. Make a shot list! Don't believe the indie hype that would have you think "shot lists are for whimps". They're also for people who don't want to bang their heads against the editing suite monitor wondering why you didn't get coverage on your big party scene.

2. Feed your actors. Give them wine, too, if it's possible. It helps, of course, to have a girlfriend who's a chef. Food keeps actors happy. Wine keeps directors calm.

3. There's no such thing as too much time. Because I'd planned everything out meticulously, I was actually ahead of schedule. Yay for me. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't use every ounce of time available to you, the actors and the sets.

4. Plan your shoot for one day. It makes scheduling so much easier, and people much more willing to work for you. If it means re-writing the script (as it did for me), so be it. Look upon it as a creative challenge.

5. If you plan to appear on film, don't be self-conscious. Oh, boy, that was a mistake. If you're at all concerned about body image, don't appear on film. There's a reason why actors are all skeletons with flesh draped over them.

Those are my first five lessons. More will come as I proceed through the editing process, I'm sure.
:: posted by Ian Dawe, 11/29/2005 Comments (0)
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Monday, November 28, 2005

Where Is Aeon Flux?
Here's a little something for anyone who thinks the life of a film critic is all wine and roses.

This week San Francisco has four movies opening: a documentary about Indian Yogis whose very title, Naked in Ashes, makes me yawn; another docu-drama about snowboarding, First Descent, that arguably, could be even duller; Henry Jaglom's astoundingly tedious and insulting Going Shopping, and Aeon Flux.

Clearly Flux is the week's big release, but as of 11 a.m. today -- with four days until opening -- Paramount has yet to decide when, or if, they're holding the press screening. It's not as if they've decided not to screen it, it's that they haven't made any decision at all. The week is already pretty well booked with year-end awards-consideration movies, and my every move is hinging on that Flux screening. I can't commit to any other review or meeting until I know.

For example, the First Descent screening is on Tuesday night. I have an editor who wants me to review it for him, and yet I can't promise him anything, because I'm already obligated to review Aeon Flux, and the Aeon Flux screening just might pop up on Tuesday night in the same time slot. (And, believe me, that happens all the time.)

What's really weird is that December is supposed to be full of good movies, movies that have been selected as potential award-winners, and... this is all we're getting?

Apparently not even Roger Ebert knows anything yet. And time keeps passing while Paramount executives try to make up their minds...
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 11/28/2005 Comments (3)
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Friday, November 25, 2005

Pat Morita Waxes Off

Pat Morita, star of many films and TV shows including, most famously, The Karate Kid (and its unworthy sequels), died yesterday of natural causes. Knowing for bringing a warmth and humanity to all his roles, he will be missed. The full obituary is at the CBC website.
:: posted by Ian Dawe, 11/25/2005 Comments (0)
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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving Movies on Combustible
Could this be the worst batch of Thanksgiving movies in history? Sure, last year we got Oliver Stone's turkey Alexander, but we also got Brad Anderson's pretty good The Machinist. I remember one year my grandmother took me to the movies and our choices were Oh, God! You Devil and Supergirl, but I still had fun. Now we have Rent, Just Friends, and the godawful Yours, Mine and Ours (thanks to bad scheduling and early deadlines, I was not able to see Ice Harvest).

Fortunately, a truly great DVD graces us this week as well: the long-awaited and essential Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection, from New Line. I also checked out Paramount's very good Hammett (1982), and a collection of Andy Sidaris films, as well as the horrible ripoff, 50 Cent: Refuse 2 Die. And though I didn't get a look at the DVD itself, Spielberg's War of the Worlds comes out this week.

Additionally, Sarah Silverman was kind enough to respond to an e-mail interview I sent her a couple of weeks ago. Sorry, guys, I don't have her e-mail address; it was handled by a third party. I wish I could have followed up to some of her answers, but you can't have everything...

Finally, my list of the best Thanksgiving movies: 1) Home for the Holidays, 2) Hannah and Her Sisters, 3) Planes, Trains and Automobiles, 4) Pieces of April, 5) Broadway Danny Rose, 6) Spider-Man, 7) Avalon. Enjoy!
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 11/23/2005 Comments (0)
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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

David Bowie joins cast of Christopher Nolan's next movie
I can't believe I missed this yesterday, but David Bowie has confirmed that he will play inventor Nikola Tesla in Christopher Nolan's next movie, The Prestige, based on the novel of the same name. Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and Michael Caine have already signed on, with shooting set to begin in January.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11/22/2005 Comments (0)
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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Docs up for the Oscar
The Academy has announced the fifteen documentary films that are eligible for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar. On the not-so-shortlist are: After Innocence, The Boys of Baraka, Darwin's Nightmare, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Favela Rising, Mad Hot Ballroom, March of the Penguins, Murderball, Occupation: Dreamland, On Native Soil: The Documentary of the 9/11 Commission Report, Rize, Street Fight, 39 Pounds of Love, and Unknown White Male.

As the IFC Blog points out, there's a few notable omissions, not the least of which are Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man and Gunner Palace.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11/17/2005 Comments (0)
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New Movie & DVD Reviews from Combustible
It's a light week, mostly because everything will be competeing against the imossible colussus: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Which is just as well, because it's the best thing to see this week anyway. I'm not too surprised that the new Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line is getting the usual respectable reviews, despite its blandly formulaic treatment. The week's only other new movie (at least of the ones I saw), is meant for people who will not like the other two: Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic. I'm not sure it's the funniest movie I've ever seen, but I've been recalling lines for a week and laughing to myself in the strangest places.

I had a chance to catch up on a bunch of DVDs this week. The Criterion Collection's new Ugetsu is easily the big one, a long overdue classic from a greatly underrepresented filmmaker. Criterion also released a new version of Akira Kurosawa's Ran, though it was already available in a pretty good edition from Wellspring. I also looked at two concert DVDs from Music Video Distributors: The English Beat: In Concert at the Royal Festival Hall and The Human League: Live at the Dome, as well as Cronicas, Scrubs: The Complete Second Season, The Sting: Legacy Series Edition and Witness: Special Collector's Edition. I eventually tracked down a copy of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, and enjoyed it a third time -- I don't care what anyone says. Finally, I looked at a new Spanish import DVD of John Huston's The Dead (1987). It's a truly great movie, but a truly abomibable DVD.

Finally, I had the opportunity to interview George Lopez for a new comedy festival. That's about it -- until Thanksgiving.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 11/17/2005 Comments (0)
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Monday, November 14, 2005

Scorsese plans to quit making feature films
Wow. According to, Martin Scorsese says he soon plans to stop making feature films in favor of documentaries and short films. Following The Departed, Scorsese says he plans to make a film in Japan called Silence, which he expects to be one of his last Hollywood efforts. I'm a big fan of Scorsese's documentaries, especially his two on American and Italian cinema, so it'll be interesting to see what he does when he's completely focused on it, but the multiplex will certainly be a lot less interesting place.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11/14/2005 Comments (0)
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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Cronenberg bringing Dead Ringers: The Series to HBO
I'm not quite sure what to make of this, but Variety reports that David Cronenberg is working with HBO to produce a series based on his 1988 film Dead Ringers. Cronenberg himself will apparently direct the pilot.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11/12/2005 Comments (2)
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Friday, November 11, 2005

New Movie & DVD Reviews from Combustible
Isn't November supposed to be full of good movies, packed to the walls with Oscar-season hopefuls and top-ten list contenders? This week alone I saw early screenings of two major disappointments, Neil Jordan's Breakfast on Pluto and Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, and the six new movies opening this week aren't much to sing about either.

The best of the lot, Bee Season, seems to have been misunderstood by more than half the critics who saw it. The kids' movie Zathura is surprisingly good, coming as it does from director Jon Favreau, the man who made the disaster-in-waiting Elf into a holiday classic. The documentary Protocols of Zion is the week's other worthy release, a strange and horrifying documentary about Anti-Semitism that isn't afraid to get down and dirty with its own interview subjects. Everybody seems to like the new Pride & Prejudice, and I agree that Keira Knightley is dazzling, but an amateur director and bad casting bungle the rest of it.

Look for Jim Sheridan's Get Rich or Die Tryin' to come in at #1 in the box office race, simply because it opened on Wendesday and got a head start. I'm a closet 50 Cent fan, but this movie just left me cold. The weakest of the lot is undeniably Derailed, a would-be thriller with a miscast Jennifer Aniston and Clive Owen.

This week's high point is the re-release of the ultra-rare Michelangelo Antonioni classic The Passenger, which has only been available on a cruddy old VHS tape.

As for new DVDs, I looked at a batch of new Fatty Arbuckle material, notably the new four-disc box set The Forgotten Films of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and the new CD/DVD set by jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas, entitled Keystone. Hopefully these releases will help restore Arbuckle to the canon of great screen clowns. Otherwise, I finally got around to reviewing the tenth anniversary disc of Toy Story and the Special Edition of My Left Foot. But easily the high point this week is Fox's DVD of Two for the Road, a beautiful widescreen film and one of the most emotionally truthful films ever made in America.

Also, I was able to talk to directors David Seigel and Scott McGehee about their film Bee Season and to Jim Sheridan about Get Rich or Die Tryin'. And I checked out a great new collection of James Agee's works -- a must for any hardcore film fan.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 11/11/2005 Comments (0)
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The Gorgeous 100

It might be advertiser-supplanted fluff, but Variety and Jaguar's The Gorgeous 100 offers some great choices in counting down the 100 most iconic moments in cinema history, for the lower half at least. Suffice to say that many of them involve half-naked actresses (like Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour). They also link to the original Variety reviews of said films.
:: posted by Matt, 11/11/2005 Comments (0)
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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

DVD Review: Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology
by Donald Melanson

Warner Bros. has packaged the first four Batman movies together in a brand new box set but it is really two very different series. The first two films, directed by Tim Burton, drew inspiration from the darkest of the comics and graphic novels. Joel Schumacher's two latter films, on the other hand, have more in common with the campy 60s TV series, except they're less fun.

Continued >>
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11/08/2005 Comments (1)
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Thomas Haden Church Appears as Flint Marko in Spider-Man 3
Sony Pictures released today the first picture of Thomas Haden Church (Oscar nominee for Sideways) as Flint Marko in Spider-Man 3, to be released in 2007. Spider-Man fans will recognize Marko as the alter ego of Sandman, sure to be an impressive CGI villian, who can shift his body into sand and elude our hero's grasp. To be sure, the big photo (credited to Merie Wallace) isn't particularly impressive; he looks like someone just took his parking spot. And lately Part Threes have not lived up to their predecessors (The Matrix Revolutions or Blade: Trinity anyone?). But with Sam Raimi at the helm, anything's possible.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 11/08/2005 Comments (8)
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Rosario Dawson Howls in 'Rent'
Thanks to a friend with connections, I was invited as a guest to a special screening of Chris Columbus's Rent last night at Skywalker Ranch. I'm embargoed from saying much about it, but I wanted to take a moment to sing the praises of Rosario Dawson (25th Hour, Sin City) who plays the drug-addled stripper Mimi. Dawson was not in the stage version, but she absolutely nails her song, "Out Tonight," which features a kind of howling chorus: "Let's go OW-OOOOO-T tonight!" I think she's good enough to nab an Oscar nomination. How's that for buzz?
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 11/08/2005 Comments (0)
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Sunday, November 06, 2005

DVD Review: The 70s Dimension
by Jesse Walker

Like wine and garbage, decades change as they age, adopting new flavors, textures, odors. At first they seem almost like part of the present. Gradually, differences begin to appear, in style and then in attitude. You catch an old episode of Homicide, and you find yourself noticing the hairstyles -- funny, they didn't look odd the first time you saw the show, way back in 1994. Then you flip through an old magazine, and you're startled to see prominent Republican pols preaching peace and warning of the dangers of the imperial state. Did Jack Kemp really call Clinton's Balkan war "an international Waco"? Did Democrats really support a president who declared, "You can't say you love your country and hate your government"? What country was this?

But by then the memory of the actual decade is fading, and soon it's been replaced by a few iconic clich├ęs. Everyone knows the standard '60s montage set to the strains of Hendrix or Buffalo Springfield. The '70s in turn were reduced to Nixon, disco, gas lines, and wide lapels. They don't have a '90s montage yet, but wait another 10 years -- it'll get here.

Finally, something splits open: The era is so distant, so alien, that when you look past those familiar icons you see a landscape where every little thing seems faintly strange. The most ephemeral cultural detritus becomes fascinating. Everything is an artifact.

Continue >>

:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11/06/2005 Comments (0)
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Ebert on Dark City
Roger Ebert has chosen Alex Proyas' Dark City (1998) as the latest entry in his Great Movies series, making it the most recent of the over 200 movies selected so far. Says Ebert:
I believe more than ever that "Dark City" is one of the great modern films. It preceded "The Matrix" by a year (both films used a few of the same sets in Australia), and on a smaller budget, with special effects that owe as much to imagination as to technology, did what "The Matrix" wanted to do, earlier and with more feeling.
He also notes at the end of the review that a director's cut of the film will be released on DVD in 2006. No doubt it'll cut out the opening naration that Proyas has complained about, but I hope it doesn't have too many other significant changes.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11/06/2005 Comments (1)
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Friday, November 04, 2005

Image Entertainment to Release Shaw Brothers Films on DVD
It seems that Image Entertainment has struck a deal with Celestial Pictures to release 30 Shaw Brothers films on DVD in Region 1 starting in 2006. Cinema Strikes Back has the details as well as quick looks at three of the titles, The Shadow Boxer, Heaven and Hell, and The Magic Blade.

[Via GreenCine Daily]
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11/04/2005 Comments (0)
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Thursday, November 03, 2005

New Movie & DVD Reviews on Combustible
One word: Jarhead. That's pretty much the only movie to see this week. Like Sam Mendes's American Beauty, it may seem controversial and subversive now, but come award season, it will be on everyone's lips. I don't think it's quite a top ten contender for me, but it's definitely a must-see. If nothing else, Jamie Foxx will blow people away with another award-worthy performance.

Otherwise we have two mediocre efforts that will probably disappear before anyone notices: Chicken Little and Paradise Now.

Also check out my interview with author Anthony Swofford.

In new DVDs, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith came out this week, but I never received my review copy. It seems like I'm the only one who reviews the smaller titles, but when the big ones come out, every "reviewer" in the country cries out for their free copies, and there aren't enough to go around.

I did, however, get a chance to look at Warner Home Video's excellent new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 2-disc set and their The Wizard of Oz 3-disc set, both elevating the standards of the format to new heights. Additionally, Disney has re-released two of their best recent animated features, Tarzan and The Emperor's New Grove, Fox brings out Woody Allen's wonderful Melinda and Melinda, and Universal unleashes the excellent Unleashed -- easily Jet Li's best American film with an excellent villanous turn by Bob Hoskins.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 11/03/2005 Comments (0)
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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Any Quintet fans out there?
Filmbrain is looking for defenders of Robert Altman's Quintet, the director's science fiction film starring Paul Newman. I haven't seen it, but after reading Filmbrain's description I feel like I have to.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11/02/2005 Comments (0)
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The Prisoner on the cheap
I just had to point out that Amazon currently has The Complete Prisoner Megaset (a.k.a. The Best TV Show Ever) on sale for just $57.97 -- 61% off the list price. My review of the set is here. There's a bunch of other British TV series and movies on sale at Amazon as well, including the complete Saint TV series, the complete Emma Peel Avengers set, and boxed sets of Alec Guiness and Peter Sellers movies.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11/02/2005 Comments (0)
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