Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Hawking an emotional and moving look into the tenacity of the human spirit

stephen-hawking-sliceFor the last 30 years, physicist and world’s smartest man Stephen Hawking has blurred the lines between scientific discovery and pop cultural phenomenon; at this point in life, you’ve most likely either read his breakthrough book A Brief History of Time or you’ve meant to for years. You’ve seen him guest on the Simpson’s and Star Trek: The Next Generation. If science has a rock star, then there’s no one else that can fill the role besides Professor Hawking. All this, from a man whose body is so crippled with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) that he is, at this point, little more than a brain trapped by his body.
A new documentary that premiered at SXSW this year delves into the life of the world’s most famous physicist and offers an intensely intimate portrait of one of the greatest minds of our (or any) generation. Hawking, directed by Stephen Finnigan, takes you deep inside the life and times of the good professor and allows you to see behind the wheelchair and into the desires of a man who was given 2 years to live over four decades ago.
Told in his own voice, that instantly recognizable electronic drone, viewers are shown a side of Hawking that we’ve never seen before. We see the struggles of a man who has no choice but to be spoon fed his morning coffee and even champagne at a party in his honor at Oxford University. While there’s nothing terribly shocking about these revelations—because of course he’s spoon fed his beverages, how else could he drink?—it’s much different to actually see it up close and personal. Here is a man who has changed the way scientists view the universe in ways not seen since Albert Einstein first proposed relativity almost a century ago; he is trapped inside of his own body which long ago betrayed him and can no longer so much as breath without the assistance of a machine. The only muscle, in fact, that he still has any sort of control over is a tiny muscle in his cheek, with which he controls the computer that has long since become his voice and, therefore, his sole means of communication to the world. Read the rest of this entry »

A terrifying new vision from Rob Zombie

Horror just ain’t what it used to be; the advent and subsequent rise of the slasher genre in the late 70’s and early 80’s brought the focus less on visceral terror and more on violence and gore as a means to horrify the audience. And while there have been several masterpieces of this movement (can anyone forget their first encounter with Freddy?) the blood and body counts just kept rising as each movie tried its damnedest to outdo the last; this, of course, eventually evolved into the torture-porn movement we’ve seen over the last decade and the violence escalated.
To be clear, I’ve got nothing against violence in movies or horror and I love certain slasher and torture-porn movies. They have their place and most likely always will be a mainstay sub-genre of horror. I do lament the decline of the cerebral, however; movies like the original Omen, Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, and even The Shining made their marks on both cinematic and horror history by being, first and foremost, atmospherically disjointing. Violence was implied, for the most part, and the real horror took place psychologically, in the mind of the characters and the audience. There was a subtlety to these films and to the horror movement of the 60s and 70s that is, frankly, terribly lacking in today’s horror culture. Read the rest of this entry »

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone? Not so much.

As part of the opening night festivities for the 20th annual SXSW Film Festival, the premiere of the highly anticipated Hollywood comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone was held at the paramount theater. It seemed a little odd that a major film such as this would make its debut at , our little festival, but I suppose it’s all a part of the winds of change. Every year, more and more bigger releases make their first public showing in Austin. Last year, for example, saw the openings of both Bridesmaids and the big name Hollywood remake of 21 Jumpstreet as part of the South By party. So I suppose it makes sense that they would try their hands at this one as well.
There was much fanfare as moviegoers wrapped around the block in attempt to make their way into the screening which featured appearances by stars Steve Carrell, Jim Carrey, and Olivia Wilde. It was rather exciting to be a part of that experience, I’ll say that much. As to the movie itself? Well, let’s just say that there was nothing at all incredible about it.
The movie follows lifelong friends and magician team Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton as they attempt to overcome the perils of a stale act and egotism. Wonderstone (Carrell) has long since forgotten the passion he held for magic in his youth, the passion that drove him to pursue his dream of becoming a world famous stage magician. He has a cush job at a Vegas hotel and lives the lavish life of a stardom that includes a personal suite in Vegas as well as the much touted “largest bed in the state”. Read the rest of this entry »

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER AND JOHNNY KNOXVILLE – on “THE LAST STAND”

Runtime: 107 minutes
Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout and language
Action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger makes his much-anticipated return to the big screen in Korean director KIM Jee-Woon’s hard-hitting U.S. directorial debut, THE LAST STAND.
After leaving his LAPD narcotics post following a bungled operation that left him wracked with remorse and regret, Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) moved out of Los Angeles and settled into a life fighting what little crime takes place in sleepy border town Sommerton Junction. But that peaceful existence is shattered when Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), the most notorious, wanted drug kingpin in the western hemisphere, makes a deadly yet spectacular escape from an FBI prisoner convoy.
With the help of a fierce band of lawless mercenaries led by the icy Burrell (Peter Stormare), Cortez begins racing towards the US-Mexico border at 250 mph in a specially-outfitted Corvette ZR1 with a hostage in tow. Cortez’ path: straight through Summerton Junction, where the whole of the U.S. law enforcement, including Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) will have their final opportunity to intercept him before the violent fugitive slips across the border forever.
At first reluctant to become involved, and then counted out because of the perceived ineptitude of his small town force, Owens ultimately rallies his team and takes the matter into his own hands, setting the stage for a classic showdown.
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in THE LAST STAND. Directed by KIM Jee-Woon and written by Andrew Knauer, THE LAST STAND also stars Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro, Jaimie Alexander, Luis Guzmán, Eduardo Noriega, Peter Stormare, Zach Gilford and Genesis Rodriguez. The film is produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura [the TRANSFORMERS series, RED, GI JOE, SALT]. Lionsgate Presents, A Lionsgate/di Bonaventura Pictures Production.

PERSONALLY, I HATE MOVIE REVIEWS AND TRAILERS…

While they do have good attributes, I feel in  essence they rob the theater goer of the freshness of the movie experience. I do watch some trailers for projects that I am excited about and I like to know what my favorite directors, writers and actors are up to, but for the most part I steer clear. I love movie magic. I know that if i was not deep into what I dig already, I would be somewhere in the film biz. I love being affected by film. The good conversations that happen with others after a screening and having  thoughts about said film for weeks after are two of my  favorite things. This evening, I saw a well made film with a friend and clean slate. I knew  nothing, except the title. I wish everyone could do this.
The film is called, SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD .  It has some well known actors. I  bet  the trailers are all over TV.  This  was well written, directed and acted.  The cheesy stuff  was very minimal. See this one. It opens tomorrow. That is  all I will say…………

SXSW Interview: Austin High School Alum Marshall Allman Discusses his New Film ‘Blue Like Jazz’ and the Meaning of Life

Marshall Allman is probably best known as Sam Merlotte’s resentful shape-shifting brother on the HBO series True Blood, but as star and executive producer of Blue Like Jazz (based on the comedic and inspirational best-seller by Donald Miller), he’s no longer in anyone’s shadow.  While Blue Like Jazz screened at SXSW, I had the opportunity to sit down with Allman and talk about the pressures of bringing a beloved book to the big screen. The following is a transcript of our conversation:

DW: Let’s start at the beginning. How did Blue Like Jazz come to you?

MA: I got an email out of the blue from a friend who knew some folks who wanted to contact me about this movie.  It just slipped through the cracks and I honestly just forgot about it. A couple of weeks later he emailed again and said, “Hey, I really wanna give these people your contact info.”  You know? Like, come back to Earth! So I said, yeah, and later that night I got an email from writer/director Steve Taylor that said, “You’re on the short list of actors we’re considering for the lead in this film, will you read the script and let us know if you’re interested?”

DW: That’s pretty flattering.

MA: Oh yeah, but you know when you get a script that doesn’t come from your agent …

DW: … you have no idea if it’s quality?

MA: I’ll tell you right now, 95% of the time it’s junk and you can tell within the first 5 pages. So I got a few pages in with this one and I was like, wow. So I emailed him back just a couple hours later right after I read it and said, “Hey man, I know you have your short list of actors but your search is done! I’m the guy, and thank you for the offer.” (laughs) He wrote back and said, “That wasn’t necessarily an offer…” (laughing)

DW: But there’s one forthcoming?

MA: Yeah, he said, “I won’t offer it to anyone else until we meet.” So about a week later we met and I was really nervous. We sat down at a little place to eat lunch and he came in and handed me a mixed CD, kind of like a soundtrack that he envisioned would go with the film and he said, “You got the part, man.” So I was really grateful. It made it easier for me to eat my meal.

DW: (laughs) You’re listed as executive producer on the film. How did that come about? Read the rest of this entry »

SXSW Interview: “Girl Model” filmmakers share a shocking secret about the making of their film

I met A. Sabin and David Redmon on the verandah of the Four Seasons Hotel overlooking Town Lake. Sabin is darkly beautiful and carries a quiet confidence, while David is a bit more intense. They look like the serious, award-winning documentarians they are, but that doesn’t stop them from getting distracted and a bit giddy when we’re joined on the terrace by a couple of celebrities posing for local press. After the excitement dies down and David and I discuss our shared roots in the DFW area, we dig in to the topic at hand: Girl Model, a film which documents the recruiting of under-age girls in remote Siberia for modeling in Japan.

Three-quarters of the way into our interview, things take a dark and unexpected turn, but we began with some background on the story.

DW: How did you first hear about this agency doing cattle calls in Siberia?

AS: We were approached in 2007 by Ashley, the model scout. At that point she sent us an email and the story was about modeling and prostitution, and the fine line between both. But our style of filmmaking is verite so we document events as they unfold. For us that creates a complexity in the story. So we had obvious concerns that she said this is the story that I think you should follow. We sort of pulled back and said we don’t want to make an investigative piece. But that’s how we initially got the story through Ashley and then it became something quite different.

DW:  I have to say that’s surprising to me because Ashley seems so conflicted about what she’s doing. It wouldn’t seem like she would approach you to open herself up like that.

AS: She’s complicated. I think that’s why audiences respond to her so strongly because they’re trying to figure her out, to understand her motivation. Read the rest of this entry »

SXSW Review: Girl Model

This haunting documentary opens on a huge ‘cattle call’ of girls from small villages in Siberia. They stand in bikinis, some with arms folded across their breasts, others with slumped shoulders, signs of obvious self-consciousness. They are here to audition for an opportunity to model in Japan, but most don’t look like future models at all. It looks more like a very large gym class lined up for weigh-in. They don’t flaunt or carry themselves in a presentational manner. No matter how pretty they may be, most of them look like gangly, innocent youngsters and that’s exactly what they are. As young as 13, they’re here because they dream of “getting out” and making money for their struggling families. But it will mean leaving behind everything they know and finding themselves in a strange land, at the mercy of a cruel industry.

When we first meet Ashley Arbaugh, an American scout who works exclusively for the Japanese modeling agency, she tells us she believes she’s “saving” these girls and giving them a chance in the west. But as we get a creepy feeling watching these minors being poked and prodded like so much market beef, and photographed in skimpy clothes so their bodies can be assessed and measured, Ashley fully admits that it’s the look of wide-eyed innocence they’re after. She then tells us that they pre-screen girls even younger than 13 in the villages. “Before anybody else gets there, we get the girls.”

A 13-year-old named Nadya is chosen from among the hundreds who showed up. Read the rest of this entry »

SXSW Interview: Jack Black talks Bernie, Prison Conditions, Gospel Music, and Tenacious D

Jack Black saunters in wearing a cool black western shirt, black jeans, and neon lime green sneakers. He’s also carrying a drink which may or may not contain something more than Coca-Cola at 1pm. Sometimes thoughtful and incredibly articulate, other times profane and silly, he keeps the roundtable interview jazzed. He’s got a touch of magic about him. He’s also got a fine performance in Bernie that he is (rightfully) proud of.

I was invited to attend this roundtable interview with several other journalists (local and national). The following is an edited transcript, and an audio file of the last few minutes of the interview in which Jack serenades us with some Tenacious D.

Glory be, and long live rock.

QUESTION: How does it feel to join the ranks of Jack Nicholson and Jack Lemmon who romanced Shirley MacLaine on screen?

JB: You know that’s a lot of pressure. Those are some powerful Jacks.

(laughter)

QUESTION: You give her a foot massage so that’s even more intimate according to Pulp Fiction rules.

JB: Is that in Pulp Fiction? They say a foot massage is more intimate than intercourse? Yeah, and I didn’t just rub the feet. I also buffed and shined’em. You saw it. It was a full-on thing there.

(He pretends to blow residue from a buffer as he does in the film.)

(laughter)

QUESTION: Did you spend any time with a funeral director to get some of those techniques down? Read the rest of this entry »

SXSW Interview: Kay McConaughey Raised A Good Boy and Some Hell Along the Way

Kay McConaughey in “Bernie”

Kay McConaughey (affectionately known as K-Mac) plays a small town gossip in the new film Bernie, directed by family friend Richard Linklater, and co-starring her son Matthew, whom you may have heard of.

Her character, Tassie, is one of the more memorable “locals” through which the film’s narrative is told. She plays a ballsy gal with plenty to say and steals the movie in her few brief scenes.

I sat down with K-Mac in the Lobby Lounge restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel while SXSW frenzy buzzed around us. Looking nowhere near her 80 years and having more energy than most kids I know, she chatted about the movie, her book, her famous son, and being a grandma.


DW: I’ve just come out of a roundtable interview with Matthew and Richard. They talked about you…

KM: (laughs) Yeah, well, Richard’s so low-key and sweet. I hope I get to see him in a suit before I die. I’ve never seen him in a suit no matter what the premiere is and I go to all of his.

DW: How did you get involved with the film Bernie?

KM: Rick called me and said, “There’s a part for you in this movie Bernie and I cannot imagine anybody playing Tassie but you.” I’m good friends with him and his family so it’s not like… I mean he just comes right out and says, “It’s you, K-Mac. It’s got you all over it.” So he emailed it to me and I said, “Rick, you’re right. That sounds like me.” I said I’d love to do it.

DW: The part you play is one of the townspeople, one of the gossips, and it all seems so natural. Was it ad-libbed or scripted?

KM: I ad-libbed. (laughs) A lot. Read the rest of this entry »

SXSW Interview: Matthew McConaughey and Richard Linklater talk about “Bernie”

Tucked away in a quiet corner of the bustling Four Seasons Hotel in Austin with SXSW excitement buzzing all around, Matthew McConaughey and Richard Linklater arrive to talk about their film Bernie. The two have worked together and been friends since we first saw McConaughey in Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1993). Their rapport is obvious as the two casually open up about their latest endeavor.

Bernie is a twisted, quirky comedy; the true story of a beloved and cheerful small-town mortician who befriends the meanest (and wealthiest) widow in town and ultimately kills her. It stars Jack Black as Bernie, Shirley MacLaine as Marjorie Nugent, and Matthew McConaughey as District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson.

The following is an edited transcript of the discussion in which 10 journalists were invited to ask questions.

QUESTION (to MM): In this film and in some of your best work you play a lawyer. I’m trying to think of all the films where you played a lawyer…

MM: What have we got here… A Time to Kill, Amistad, Lincoln Lawyer and this … yeah.

QUESTION: And you wanted to be a lawyer originally, you were pre-law?

MM: I did. That’s where I was headin’. Then I luckily ran into a friend of ours, Don Phillips, in a bar and he introduced me to this guy (motions to Linklater). And yeah, this is much more fun.

QUESTION: How does Bernie fit into your “J.K. Livin” philosophy?
(“Just keep livin” is a quote from Dazed and Confused that McConaughey has adopted as his personal philosophy and it is the name of his production company.) Read the rest of this entry »

SXSW Review: 21 Jump Street

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to a Movie I Didn’t Want to See, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Enjoy 21 Jump Street

 

I hated the TV show “21 Jump Street.” It’s not even worth discussing why. It just sucked in so many ways. I became a Johnny Depp fan pretty much the second he gave them all the finger and went off to make weird movies. I groaned when I saw the trailer for the big screen remake and I went to the premiere at SXSW under duress. And then a funny happened:  God help me, I liked this movie.

Let’s add to my reasons for trepidation the fact that I’ve been slow to appreciate the charms of Channing Tatum. Or to put it another way: until now, I could barely stand the sight of the guy, let alone entire movies that showcase his sub-par acting and hunkdom routine. That’s a little harsh, and I know that now because I’ve seen 21 Jump Street in which he displays stellar comic timing and only uses his good looks as the butt of jokes (not unlike Mr. Depp some moons ago.) Jonah Hill is consistently hilarious in the film, and let’s face it, Jonah Hill is consistently hilarious in everything. He can deadpan like no other and has a special gift for wringing belly-laughs out of awkward situations.

In addition to (surprisingly) excellent casting, the writers, Michael Bacall (Project X, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Jonah Hill (with a story credit) have a lot of fun turning the typical high school stereotypes on their heads. Schmidt (Hill) was uncool in school but a good student. Jenko (Tatum) was popular but not too bright. When they’re given the undercover assignment as high school narcs, now in their mid-20s, their phony names and personas get mixed up. Suddenly Schmidt is the cool kid and Jenko is the science geek. Read the rest of this entry »

SXSW REVIEW: Bernie, a Heckuva Sweet Guy and a Murderer

Meet Bernie (Jack Black), the nicest guy in the small rural town of Carthage, TX. He volunteers for charity, directs local community theater, goes above and beyond the call of duty as assistant funeral director, has a lovely singing voice that he lends to gospel classics in church, checks in on grieving widows in his spare time, befriends the most reviled woman in town, and kills her.

“Bernie” is based on a crime story that proves the adage “truth is stranger than fiction.”

There is so much about the film (and Bernie) that is odd, and often endearingly so. The story is structured around interviews of quirky and colorful local residents who are eager to share their thoughts about the crime. These are interspersed with re-enactments of the events as they unfolded in 1998. It’s at once funny and chilling that most everyone in town sides with Bernie even though he confessed to shooting an elderly woman four times in the back.

The offbeat tone of the film is established in the opening sequence in which a competent and cheerful Bernie demonstrates to a class of future-morticians how to make corpses look good. (You’d be surprised how much super glue comes in to play.) Read the rest of this entry »

(Annoying) Friends with Kids

Meet platonic friends Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt). Their best friends are two married couples: Ben and Missy (Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm) who start out hot and heavy but then allow a chasm of resentment to grow between them, and Leslie and Alex (Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd) who bicker but manage to keep it fairly playful and forgiving. Both of these pairs have kids who create havoc in the home, strain their love lives, and generally wear them out. Inspired by, or more to the point, repelled by the lives of their married friends, Jason and Julie decide to have a baby together, but vow to remain platonic friends so they can separate the act of parenting and the pursuit of romantic love. They think this is the perfect solution to the problems they see around them. Sounds great, right? They get a bundle of joy, and still get to go out like singletons and pursue hot sex. They vow to be “100% committed half the time.” Thus the double-meaning in the title, “Friends with Kids.”

Of course, their married friends see the flaw in this plan right from the get-go. The problem is, so will the audience. It doesn’t take a genius to know that the intimacy of child-rearing will strain and confuse their friendship, and that parenting is going to require more of them than part-time commitment.

Much effort is made to ensure that the march to the foregone conclusion is peppered with “shocking” risqué humor, presumably meant to set it apart from less challenging mainstream rom-coms, but the result is a film that’s more repellent than riotous.

It’s hard to know what to make of star/writer/director Jennifer Westfeldt. Read the rest of this entry »

“Dance, dance. Otherwise we are lost.”

Pina Bausch was a choreographer of extraordinary vision and innovation. In Wim Wender’s 3-D film entitled simply “Pina,” movie-goers are treated to excerpts from some of her most well-known and influential works. Among them are a piece that takes place entirely on loose soil so that the dancers become increasingly smudged and dirty as they enact tortured scenes of struggle and strife, a prop-filled piece entitled “Café Muller” in which chairs and tables are used to ingenious effect, and some outdoor sequences that use city space, light and air to add texture and depth to the dancer’s movements. Some of the most fascinating sequences are when Pina utilizes natural elements in the choreography: rock, sand, water.

There are moments of romance, levity, heartbreak, outright anguish and pain, and sheer beauty.

Between each dance piece, a member of the troupe tells a brief story about Pina. None of these stories are about her personal life – only about working with her. The film aims strictly to offer a tribute to this woman’s amazing work and work ethic. We’re given the impression of someone driven to create, bound only by her seemingly limitless imagination. She was a woman of few words, who made it count when she offered brief directions to her dancers.  Everyone involved clearly has enormous respect and love for Pina and her work, and that shows in each frame of the film.

The choice to use 3D here is inspired. It’s as if we’re in a live auditorium, watching the dancers move about on a real stage. In as much as it’s possible, we get the sense of live dance performances while sitting in an ordinary movie theater.

This is a must-see for fans of dance, art, and theater.

4.5 of 5 stars

The Vow

Paige Thornton (Rachel McAdams) is a happily married art student who’s just landed a very cool, high-profile project. She’s got a boho fab wardrobe, a groovy studio space in Chicago, a witty, handsome husband (Channing Tatum) who adores her, and a bright future. Her life is romantic and wonderful. It’s the kind of life most people only dream of, and the kind of life that usually only exists in the movies to validate our hopes that such an existence could at least happen to somebody. Oh, and her husband owns a music studio. Perfect.

One night there is a terrible car crash and Paige obtains a serious head injury that results in memory loss of the past five years. She wakes up thinking she’s the woman she was five years ago, a woman who lived a very, very different life.

The old Paige was very close to her uber-rich family (who she hasn’t spoken to in years), dressed like a total yupster, hung out with sorority pals, and went to law school per her father’s wishes. Oh, and she was engaged to a man (Scott Speedman) who fits neatly into this scene of Gucci and Chanel and all things “upscale.” It’s a completely different world from her bohemian artist’s life she’s living these days downtown.

So two storylines emerge: 1) the mystery of how uptight yuppie Paige became the free-spirited artist Paige of today, and 2) will she fall in love with her husband again and embrace her current life? Or will she go back to the life she remembers?

Another question emerges that the filmmakers likely did not intend: How does an art student and a struggling recording studio owner afford their fabulous loft downtown AND their two different studio spaces, especially if she’s no longer taking the family money? Ah, movie logic. Best not to question these things.

Anyway, what unfolds is a period of time in which Paige has to discover her own identity again. Read the rest of this entry »

A Whale of a Tale

“Big Miracle” is a sweet movie that chronicles the real-life “save the whales” story that captivated the world in the late 80s. A family of whales (mom, pop, and baby) get trapped in the ice, and will die unless they’re able to swim out to sea. Problem is, the ice is solid between here and there, and it will take a herculean effort to break a path for them. The most heartbreaking aspect of this predicament is that the animals are very aware that they are in danger, prescient enough to take turns blowing on the surrounding ice in order to keep the hole open. Anyone with the slightest affinity for animals will be moved, and were moved when this story dominated TV news some 20 years ago.

The film stars two of the most likeable actors on earth: John Krasinski and Drew Barrymore. Krasinski plays the local journalist who breaks the story. The role essentially requires him to be gosh-darn charming and that he is. Barrymore fares less well, playing a Greenpeace activist who is dedicated and single-minded enough to not really care whether anyone likes her. Unfortunately, Barrymore feels to be trying a bit too hard here. The line between an overly strident character and an overly strident performance is a tough one to walk.

Still, the pairing of Krasinski and Barrymore hits the right tone for a film that’s got a big heart and is intended for a family audience.

Part of what made this story so fascinating was the disparate people who came together to free the whales: politicians (conservatives, no less!), Greenpeace, big oil, the National Guard, indigenous tribes. It took a village, so to speak, to do the near-impossible. Read the rest of this entry »

Rage Beyond the Grave

“The Woman in Black” succeeds in part, but doesn’t quite live up to the scares promised in the trailer.

Daniel Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a widower whose wife died while giving birth to their adorable son. He’s given the impossible task of settling the affairs at Eel Marsh, an aptly named spooky manor that is inexplicably located so far into the marshes that it’s only available by horse or motor carriage when the tide goes out. When the tide is in, the only road to the home is underwater, which of course leaves any inhabitants stranded until the tide goes out again. While the lonely mansion afloat in the marsh makes for an effective and creepy visual and serves a contrivance in the plot (one can’t merely decide to leave when the going gets spooky), it defies logic. Who would build a home that far beyond the tide? Who would live there? And how could the home ever be sold (even if it wasn’t ghost-ridden?)

Needless to say, this isn’t a job anyone would want, but Kipps is given little choice and his son depends on him.

When he arrives in town, the requisite mysterious and unfriendly reception he receives by the locals lets us know that something isn’t quite right at ol’ Eel Marsh. But determined he is, and off he goes. Read the rest of this entry »

Russ’ List of cool films from 2011

DAMN IT TAKES ME SO   LONG TO  FOCUS. HERE ARE MY PICKS from what i  saw. SOME OF ThEM MATCH THE  CRITIC’S picks  & SOME  DO NOT. THESE ARE THE FILMS    THAT  I  REMEMBER  DIGGING. EACH   OF  THESE I  WILL  RE-WATCH  OVER  AND OVER. I  SEE  many   FILMs A  YEAR BECAuSE OF   THE PAPER. THANKS   TO   TIM  AND   HARRY(fantastic  fest),  I HAVE  LEARNED  A  GREAT  WAY   TO  EXPERIENCE   FILMS,  and  that  is to  do no  research, thereby to make  every screening a “secret  screening.” I   see some  bombs this way but when I see something  great it is  an electrifying jolt of awesomeness.  This usually only works in the festival  setting. Here we go, in  no   order (if here I liked it.)
1. SUPER -   i had a  great  time with    this one at  sxsw. the  crimson bolt! i was sure  this    was   gonna  be huge. It  died  quickly.   it  is  extreme,  brutal  and  very  harsh.    I  dig it
2. MIDNIGHT IN PARIS -  My favorite  film  of year.   Woody  is  back.    this is a  love letter to Paris.   very similar    to   MANHATTAN,   which is probably my favorite  film.
3 TREE OF  LIFE -  floored  by  this  film i  was. The imagery  was in my mind   for  weeks. Mallick  has created the   feeling of a memory  here.  it is  affecting
4 THE DESCENDANTS -  blown   away  by   this..  everything worked.  Clooney  deserves    the  best  actor  oscar.  The  screenplay  was  so   well    done
5 HUGO – Scorsese fills me with     wonder
6 EXTRATERRESTRIAL -  Nacho  blends genres  here in  a  wonderful  way.  awesome
7  I  SAW THE DEVIL -  the hunter becomes  the hunted
8  SUPER 8 -  movie magic made me feel 12 years old  again
9.  13  ASSASSINS -  well  done   remake of ” 7  samurai”
10. BRIDESMAIDS -  avoided  this  forever.

The Best Films of 2011

Apples and oranges. You can’t compare’em. Just like you can’t compare Woody Allen’s quaint “Midnight in Paris” with Terence Malick’s sprawling “The Tree of Life.”  So instead of ranking the best films of 2011, I’ll simply list them in alphabetical order. Suffice to say, each in its own way has left an indelible mark on the art of film. My personal criteria for making such a list is as follows:  artistic and technical merit, the likelihood that it will stand the test of time, the number of truly memorable scenes it contained, and the degree to which it achieved its aims in moving the audience.

The Artist – A toe-tapping, heart soaring delight that celebrates the art of silent film.
The Descendants – Alexander Payne’s layered and humanistic comedy/drama about loss and family.
Drive – An exercise in retro cool that solidifies Ryan Gosling’s ever increasing status as a badass.
Hugo – Martin Scorsese’s masterful homage to early cinematic innovation.
Midnight in Paris – Woody returns to form, still making us laugh and think after all these years.
Moneyball – Who’da thunk a movie about baseball statistics could have so much heart?
A Separation – An enthralling drama from Iran about a broken family. Foreign yet painfully familiar.
Take Shelter – An exercise in true suspense that heralds a storm, and the coming of director Jeff Nichols.
Tree of Life – Terrence Malick’s sweeping symphonic masterpiece about God and Man.
War Horse – Steven Spielberg’s old-fashioned epic about  humanity amid the inhumanity of war, and a horse who finds his way home.

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