Read Mindjack's Daily Relay
tracking trends and developments
in digital culture

home | archives | about us | feedback

Friday, March 31, 2006

Combustible Celluloid's New Movie & DVD Reviews, Friday, March 31, 2006
A second four-star movie turns up this week, Claire Denis' baffling, intoxicating The Intruder, playing on only a couple of screens nationwide and doing unbelievably awful box office. Could it be that Ms. Denis -- surely one of the world's most fascinating filmmakers -- has only a couple of hundred fans here in the States?

If you're not lucky enough to live near a theater showing The Intruder, there's at least an import DVD available. Meanwhile, the new Beastie Boys concert film Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That! goes a long way toward easing the pain. And Slither and Basic Instinct 2 provide some riotous B-movie pleasures. The only real dud this week is Steve Buscemi's disappointing Lonesome Jim.

In new DVDs, The Busby Berkeley Collection (Warner Home Video) is a keeper. I also caught up with some older titles that had been cluttering up my shelves for months: The Best of the Electric Company (Shout! Factory), Death Race 2000 (Buena Vista), Europe: Live from the Dark (Music Video Distributors), Fear Chamber (Elite) and a Region 2, PAL import DVD of John Cassavetes' amazing Love Streams, courtesy

In addition, the new King Kong and Memoirs of a Geisha DVDs are available this week. One is recommended and one is not...
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 3/31/2006 Comments (4)
Links to this post

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

49th San Francisco International Film Festival Lineup
If you're planning on coming to San Francisco anytime soon, here's a good excuse: the 49th San Francisco International Film Festival announced its lineup yesterday, and it's a doozy. Opening the festival is Perhaps Love, the latest by Hong Kong romantic filmmaker Peter Ho-Sun Chan (Comrades, Almost a Love Story, The Love Letter). And the closer will be Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion. I've seen it and all I can say is that parts of it are as delightful as anything Altman has done, and parts of it resemble his 1994 disaster Pret-a-Porter.

In-between, the festival will unfurl works from such world masters as Terry Zwigoff's Art School Confidential, Seijun Suzuki's Princess Raccoon, Phillippe Garrel's Regular Lovers, Abbas Kiarostami's new short film Roads of Kiarostami, Alexander Sokurov's The Sun, Hou Hsiao-hsien's Three Times (one of the year's best films), Tsai Ming-liang's The Wayward Cloud and a series of short films by Guy Maddin.

The festival pays tribute to director Werner Herzog with the new The Wild Blue Yonder, actor Ed Harris with A Flash of Green (1984) and screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere with Belle de Jour (1967). And the lovely Tilda Swinton provides the annual State of Cinema address.

Other interesting films include the documentary Al Franken: God Spoke, several short films programs including works by Jay Rosenblatt, Vincent D'Onofrio, Stephen King, Sam Green and Don McKellar, Masahiro Kobayashi's Bashing, the new horror film The Descent, Factotum with Matt Dillon as Charles Bukowski, Carlos Saura's Iberia, Raul Ruiz's The Lost Domain, Iron Island from Iran and Alain Tasma's drama October 17, 1961.

Finally, the festival will be screening a few great classics: Rudolph Valentino in The Eagle (1925), with a live score by the Alloy Orchestra, and a restored print of Hal Roach's comedy Turnabout (1940). In addition the Alloy Orchestra will provide music for several shorts, including Buster Keaton's great One Week (1920).

That's my checklist, but there are several dozen others. The festival runs April 20 through May 4 at various San Francisco venues.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 3/29/2006 Comments (10)
Links to this post

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Fake Italian and French Genre Classics
Moriarty of Ain't it Cool News and Moriarty's DVD Shelf is running a contest where he asked his readers to make up their own Italian crime and French horror films, complete with a title and synopsis. Some of the entries so far are great.

Seven Dolls for the Piper

A gang of seven female mobsters, in Italy of the 1960s, has been staging sucessful robberies of Italian banks for the last four years, leaving no evidence to the authorities. A rival crime syndicate, with covert assistance from the Italian government, has hired a hit man to hunt down and kill the women within twenty four hours before the women can successfully stage their greatest crime. The head mistress of the gang suspects they have an informant who has provided information to the hit man, leading to a cat and mouse game. A Mario Bava styled giallo thriller. Yes folks, the title is a nod to Bava's "Five Dolls for an August Moon".
I'd see that.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 3/25/2006 Comments (3)
Links to this post

Friday, March 24, 2006

Criterion President Interviewed has an interview with Peter Becker, president of the Criterion Collection (a.k.a. the greatest job in the world).

Reel: How do you select films that are part of the three-hundred-plus Criterion DVD library?

PB: In some way, the film has to be an exemplary film of its kind. There are some filmmakers that every film they do is exemplary. The same thing is true in literature. Almost everything Melville wrote is important. There are geniuses in film. Kurosawa is one of them. Ozu and Renoir are certainly others. There are great classic auteurs, and then there are films that open up a window into filmmaking or film culture. For example, The Battle of Algiers, which I think is a really extraordinary film that is more timely in the last three or four years than any film I can think of. It's the only film I can think of where people went out and re-lived their history in front of cameras.

The short answer is, the first thing we are thinking of is our viewers, and we are trying to give them a legendary diet. When they pick up a movie from a Criterion shelf, it will be worthy of their attention. They might not love everything we put out, but they won't feel that they wasted their time.

We'll just forgot about Armageddon for now.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 3/24/2006 Comments (3)
Links to this post

New Movie & DVD Reviews from Combustible Celluloid: Inside Man, etc.
Spike Lee's Inside Man is the best movie I've seen all year, not counting Terrence Malick's The New World, which was offiicially a 2005 release. Not only is Inside Man a crackerjack thriller, but one that immerses itself in a new kind of post-9/11 community, both frightening and reassuring. It's a hugely ambiguous film that trusts in the audience implicitly. It says everything that Oscar-winner Crash wanted to say, but with more grace and less preaching.

Otherwise, we have one other very good movie, a brilliant, vicious satire, Thank You for Smoking. Director Wim Wenders returns with a modest, yet sometimes lovely, failure, Don't Come Knocking. Asia Argento's powerful, punk-rock film The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things is not for every taste, and Sorry, Haters isn't really for any taste.

I also had a very interesting chat with Wim Wenders.

In new DVDs, the wonderful Capote (Sony Pictures Classics) streets this week; it's one of only two Oscar winners that I really liked. The Criterion Collection blesses us with a new Kind Hearts and Coronets, one of the greatest comedies ever made. And I've been enjoying the heck out of The Pink Panther Classic Cartoon Collection (MGM/UA). Just in time for Easter, Paramount has spruced up The Ten Commandments: 50th Anniversary Edition, now with a third bonus disc containing DeMille's 1923 silent version. The Squid and the Whale (Sony) was one of 2005's smartest, non-messagey films, and Keane was one of its most underrated.

If anyone cares, Dear Wendy, Derailed, Get Rich or Die Tryin' and Paradise Now were also released.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 3/24/2006 Comments (4)
Links to this post

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Tron Then and Now
A compehensive history of the pioneering computer animated film Tron, via The Disney Blog. The article goes into the film's deeply involved production, its disappointing box office in 1982, and its subsequent rebirth as a cult favorite of computer geeks everywhere. I can remember seeing this when it was originally released - and it blew my little 13-year-old mind.
:: posted by Matt, 3/21/2006 Comments (3)
Links to this post

Lucas Talks to Time
There's an interesting interview with George Lucas over at Time Magazine that you may be interested in checking out. He talks about such things as the future of digital cinema (he's sure there is one), the future of movie downloading (he thinks it's going to make DVD obsolete) and the new Indiana Jones film.
:: posted by Ian Dawe, 3/21/2006 Comments (3)
Links to this post

Friday, March 17, 2006

New Movie & DVD Reviews from Combustible Celluloid
It's actually not a bad week: V for Vendetta is the best and smartest popcorn movie in some time (since King Kong? Further back?), and Sidney Lumet has returned with the peculiar, wildly entertaining Find Me Guilty. Bernardo Bertolucci's not-available-on-video The Conformist is making the rounds in a new print, while Robert Towne's fourth film as director, Ask the Dust, is a fairly interesting failure. Finally, the last of the Best Foreign Film Oscar nominees, Don't Tell, opens in theaters. Let's hope next year's batch is more inspiring.

Additionally, I previewed several excellent films at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, and spoke to Robert Towne.

New on DVD, we've got: Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt, The Best of Youth, Chicken Little, Good Night, and Good Luck, A History of Violence, Hondo, Marebito and The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. Have a great weekend!
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 3/17/2006 Comments (3)
Links to this post

Two More Movies Not Screened for Press
As the disturbing trend continues, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector and Stay Alive are scheduled to open March 24 with no advance screenings for the press. This makes number 12 and 13 since Aeon Flux darkened theaters last December. You can read more about this in a long story I wrote for the Oakland Tribune, but basically this trend is hacking away at the state of cinema in three distinct ways. 1) It shows a serious contempt not only for critics, but for audiences; by unleashing this unholy crap, they're biting the hand that feeds them. 2) Studios ought to be embarrassed by the low quality of movie they're making, but instead they're laughing all the way to the bank, encouraged by how many people still see these bad films -- even without reviews. 3) Perhaps worst of all, they're taking away one of the great pleasures of bad movies, the snarky, funny, vicious negative movie review.

Fight back. Don't see these bad movies.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 3/17/2006 Comments (4)
Links to this post

Friday, March 10, 2006

John Ford DVD Update
Warner Home Video just sent out a follow-up press release stating that none of the five films in The John Ford Collection will be available separately, outside the box set. They are: The Lost Patrol (1934) with Boris Karloff, The Informer (1935) -- for which Ford won his first Best Director Oscar, Mary of Scotland (1936) with Katharine Hepburn, Sergeant Rutledge (1960) -- with a rare leading role by Woody Strode, and Cheyenne Autumn (1964). This box retails for about $60 and streets June 6.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 3/10/2006 Comments (5)
Links to this post

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Combustible Celluloid's New Movie & DVD Reviews, March 10, 2006
In 1962, moviegoers could go out and pay an average of 70 cents to see movies like The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Lolita, The Manchurian Candidate, Dr. No, Hatari!, Lawrence of Arabia, The Trial, Ride the High Country, Knife in the Water, The Exterminating Angel, Vivre sa vie, Jules and Jim, Carnival of Souls, To Kill a Mockingbird, and many more.

Today we have: The Hills Have Eyes, Joyeux Noel, The Libertine, Street Fight, Tsotsi, Ultraviolet, Unknown White Male and Winter Passing.

In new DVDs, we have: Howl's Moving Castle, Lady and the Tramp, Oliver Twist and Separate Lies.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 3/09/2006 Comments (4)
Links to this post

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What I Really Want To Do Is Direct
The Onion AV Club offers a list of 10 Great Films Directed By Actors. Nice choices there, but they should've also done the 10 worst in that category. I never pass up people snarking on Can't Stop The Music (Nancy Walker) or Rabbit Test (Joan Rivers).
:: posted by Matt, 3/08/2006 Comments (5)
Links to this post

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

At last: John Ford on DVD
If this year's Oscars got you down, Warner Home Video has announced a new remedy. Yesterday, they issued two press releases trumpeting two John Ford box sets, totaling fifteen discs. For my money, this is the biggest DVD news of the year.

The first box, The John Ford-John Wayne Collection, will include two new double-disc sets of Stagecoach (1939) and The Searchers (1956). For its 50th Anniversary, The Searchers will be available in two separate editions, one with two discs and another with two discs and tons of printed material (a comic book, photos, etc.). Coming to DVD for the first time, we also get The Long Voyage Home (1940) -- with its deep-focus Gregg Toland cinematography, Fort Apache (1948), 3 Godfathers (1948), The Wings of Eagles (1957) and re-issues of They Were Expendable (1945) and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949).

For bargain hunters, this ten-disc box set retails for less than $80, which is only about $8 per disc. If that's too much, then you can get Fort Apache for $15 and They Were Expendable for a measly $12.

The second box features five Ford films made without Wayne: The Lost Patrol (1934), The Informer (1935) -- for which Ford won his first Best Director Oscar, Mary of Scotland (1936), Sergeant Rutledge (1960) and Cheyenne Autumn (1964). This box retails for about $60, and two titles (Mary of Scotland and Cheyenne Autumn) will not be available separately.

There are still quite a few titles in Ford's canon missing from DVD, but this plugs a huge hole.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 3/07/2006 Comments (3)
Links to this post

Monday, March 06, 2006

Oscar Thoughts
Another humdrum oscar show full of Hollywood congratulating itself on still being the most bawdy and obvious film industry on the planet. It's at times like this that the machine awards five films that it tried very hard to not make and that many industry "insiders" consider failures (i.e. didn't make any money). Pardon my cynicism, but even though Crash won best picture (I picked it, by the way), it was hardly the best movie made last year.

Still, at least we didn't have to watch Forrest Gump beat Pulp Fiction for best picture..

My biggest beef for the evening: The constant stream of morally-charged "shame on you"'s from the industry types for not going to the theatre more often. Sorry, Hollywood, if I don't want to pay $12 to watch 25 minutes of TV commercials on an underlit screen and listen to the guy next to me talk on his cell phone while munching on $6 popcorn when I can rent the DVD for $5 and see it on a reasonably large TV at home with surround sound that's probably better than the theatre. Don't shake your finger and people like me if you can't make a good product and price it reasonably.

At least it's over for another year...
:: posted by Ian Dawe, 3/06/2006 Comments (3)
Links to this post

Oscar Wrap-Up
In one of the worst years ever, the Oscars yielded a four-way tie, with four films winning three awards each. Crash caused a huge surprise upset by winning Best Picture in a year in which all bets were on Brokeback Mountain. Crash also took Best Original Screenplay and Best Editing, while Brokeback Mountain won Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director (Ang Lee) and Best Score.

King Kong and Memoirs of a Geisha each captured three awards as well. King Kong was awarded for Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Visual Effects, while Memoirs of a Geisha snagged Costume Design, Cinematography and Art Direction/Set Decoration.

Other unexpected upsets came in the Best Song category in which the much anticipated "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" (from Hustle & Flow) beat out favorite Dolly Parton (from Transamerica). And though Paradise Now and Sophie Scholl dominated the Foreign Language Film category, the awful Tsotsi surprisingly won.

In the major categories, Philip Seymour Hoffman carried the one lone stamp of quality by winning Best Actor for the excellent Capote. Reese Witherspoon won for an outstanding performance in a mediocre film, Walk the Line. George Clooney and Rachel Weisz won Best Supporting Actor and Actress, respectively, for two very bad films, Syriana and The Constant Gardener.

The Best Animated Feature Film category was the best on the ballot, with three very good films competing for the award. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit won.

In a year when Grizzly Man enchanted every critic, it was disqualified for the Best Documentary Oscar. The winner, predictably, was the banal and popular March of the Penguins.

The big hit The Chronicles of Narnia won Best Makeup. In the three short film categories, A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin won Best Documentary Short, Six Shooter won Best Live Action Short, and The Moon and the Son won Best Animated Short.

2006 looks pretty grim by comparison, but we can still hope...

Chuck Workman put together several fun montages that left me wondering why many great films (Blade Runnner? Do the Right Thing?) never win any Oscars.

One high point: Robert Altman getting an honorary Oscar. He enters the realm populated by Hitchcock, Hawks and other greats with no Oscar wins. He's a favorite of mine, and he's made quite a few damn good films, and a few great ones. I was honored to shake his hand once.

See Combustible Celluloid's Oscar Page for links, complete nominees and other notes....
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 3/06/2006 Comments (4)
Links to this post

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Altman's Oscar: Maybe Too Little, Surely Too Late
I first encountered Robert Altman when I was about 15 or 16 years old. A self-professed film nut, I rented The Player with that typical teenage art-film arrogance, something I could lord over my heathen friends watching high-budget comic book sequels. My friends of course, had the last laugh when about 20 minutes into the film, I admitted defeat and angrily switched the video off. I couldn't make head or tail of plot or character, couldn't tell whether the movie was supposed to be this sloppy and disorganized or whether I was just too stupid to pick up on it. (No one, by the way, likes to be made to feel stupid.) In any case, it took me another 15 years to finish watching The Player and appreciate Altman for the film master he was (and is).

Altman is an acquired taste, and I don't think I'm the only one who spent a few years acquiring it. Clearly anyone who wasn't raised by Martin Scorsese and spent their childhood watching Italian neo-realism and Swedish art cinema is going to find Altman a little strong at first. He doesn't "lay it out there" for the viewer like most American filmmakers. Instead, you get to know his characters and situations through spending time with them, listening to their conversations (which often have that off-handedness that is easily confused with sloppy writing) and finally gleaning their motivations by getting to know them. That's true of all Altman's work (at least, all the work I've seen).

In this sense, the Altman style is unique for both America and Europe (although he clearly owes a debt to Fellini). If being unique, intriguing and creative (as well as having a successful 40-year career) isn't enough to be considered a "master" of the art, I don't know what is.

Altman's blending of the documentary and narrative form is his trademark and for the record, it's not at all sloppy or disorganized. (If you want to see sloppy and disorganized, try Michael Cimino.) On the contrary: Altman has a firm grip on his films, it's just well-hidden. Though they may take an hour to get going, by the end, the viewer is glad they spent that hour, and realizes why they had to. It isn't even that his films are profoundly naturalistic (although they do tend to tilt that way), just that he wants his worlds to have depth and breadth instead of existing for the sole purpose of advancing the plot. Altman's characters live in a real (but not the real) world, one that is bigger than them and their problems. Sort of like real life.

That's probably the key to understanding why we are slow to "get" Altman. We're not ready for Altman until we're ready for the real world. Maybe that explains why it's taken the Academy this long to recognize him, too. Too little? I hope not. Too late? Absolutely.

By the way - this blog post is part of the Robert Altman Blog-a-Thon.
:: posted by Ian Dawe, 3/04/2006 Comments (4)
Links to this post

Friday, March 03, 2006

New Movie & DVD Reviews from Combustible
It's another bland week here at the box office, with yet another would-be hit that wasn't screened for the press (Ultraviolet). But the Oscars are on Sunday, and so viewers may want to use this weekend to catch up. (I recommend Capote, Good Night, and Good Luck, A History of Violence and Junebug.) Plus, the only really good Best Foreign Language Film nominee, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, opens this weekend.

Otherwise we have: 16 Blocks, the very funny but kind of pointless Dave Chappelle's Block Party and Go for Zucker!

In new DVDs, I checked out Warner Home Video's excellent new 2-disc set of All the President's Men and Dreamworks' Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Other new releases include Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the underrated Jarhead and the overrated Walk the Line.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 3/03/2006 Comments (0)
Links to this post

Sir Ben Kingsley, Meet Sir Ben Kingsley's Ego
I had the opportunity to see Lucky Number Slevin the other day, not a great film, but not bad either. To put a point to it, it's rather light in the brains department. It features a great cast: Josh Hartnett, Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, Lucy Liu, Stanley Tucci, Robert Forster, and right in the middle of it all, Sir Ben Kingsley. Sir. Now, we're not talking Shakespeare here, nor even Eugene O'Neill. We're talking a third-rate crime caper that even pulp paperbacks would suspiciously sniff at. Not to mention that Sir Ben Kingsley's last two pictures were the ill-fated duds BloodRayne and A Sound of Thunder. I've never met him, but word has it that when he came to San Francisco to promote his overrated House of Sand and Fog, he insisted that everyone, from lowly interns to journalists, address him as Sir.

None of the other Sirs (which basically means British artists who have been knighted) have behaved quite this badly. Picture the great Alec Guinness, a master at both comedy and at Dickens costume productions, who always kept a sense of humility and perspective about his craft.

Even if Kinglsey does stoop to playing in a comedy, he does it with thunderous overacting. In fact, his best performances are the ones that require overacting (see: Sexy Beast). In Polanski's Oliver Twist, he had the role of a lifetime as Fagin, stooped, cackling and caked in makeup. He held it together until the film's tacked-on ending in which that bad ham instinct took over.

I'm starting to think that his pretentiousness and his hamminess have turned him into the next William Shatner. If only Kingsley could see himself, then reinvent himself as a kind of bemused figure as Shatner has, he might ahve a chance to supercharge his career and get close to the kind of excellence that Guinness achieved.
:: posted by Jeffrey M. Anderson, 3/03/2006 Comments (0)
Links to this post

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Maddin on Blue Velvet
"The last real earthquake to hit cinema was David Lynch's Blue Velvet," writes Guy Maddin in the Village Voice on the occasion of the film's 20th anniversary. If you're lucky enough to live in NYC there's a brand new print of the film screening at Film Forum until March 16th.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 3/02/2006 Comments (3)
Links to this post

Canada's First Mobile Film Festival
The Globe and Mail on the world's first cell phone film fest: "Mobifest aims to bring fame and notoriety to the little-known art of the so-called 'pocket films' that are beginning to take the world by storm." I think Mindjack Film needs a detailed field report on this!
:: posted by Matt, 3/02/2006 Comments (0)
Links to this post

Subscribe to our RSS feed:
Subscribe with Bloglines



Your Ad Here

More from Mindjack:

Daily Relay

Tracking trends and developments in digital culture

Support Mindjack


Mindjack Release
Sign up to receive details of new issues

Archives prior to April, 2005 are from Donald Melanson's personal film blog.


Roger Avary
Bitter Cinema
Cinema Minima
Film Journey
Filmmaker Mag Blog
A Girl and a Gun
GreenCine Daily
Indie Film Blog
IFC Blog
Like Anna Karina's Sweater
Masters of Cinema
Reel Reviews Podcast
Wiley Wiggins

Film Criticism and Theory
James Beradinelli
Bright Lights Film Journal
Combustible Celluloid
Dual Lens
Roger Ebert
European Films
The Film Journal
Jim's Film Website
Guardian Unlimited Film
Long Pauses
Milk Plus
The New York Times
The New Yorker
Not Coming to a Theatre Near You
Reverse Shot
Jonathan Rosembaum
Salon A&E
Senses of Cinema
Slant Magazine
The Stranger
Strictly Film School
The Village Voice

Movie News
Ain't It Cool News
Movie City News
Dark Horizons
The Movie Blog
Cinema Confidential
Coming Soon

DVD News & Reviews
The Digital Bits
DVD Journal
DVD Times
DVD Verdict

Print Magazines
Cinema Scope
Film Comment
Independent Film Quarterly
Inside Film
Movie Maker
Sight & Sound
Total Film

IMDb Search