Features

Interstellar-and-Particle-Fever

A lot of Best Picture hopefuls each year have documentary counterparts. It makes sense, because biopics and other true stories are great fodder for Oscar bait. Some are as easy as Monster and Milk being linked to Nick Broomfield’s Aileen Wuornos films and The Times of Harvey Milk, respectively, in part because the dramas were directly influenced by their doc predecessors. Others, like Dallas Buyers Club and How to Survive a Plague and Captain Phillips and Stolen Seas are not as officially linked but certainly go together by being about the same real-life subject matter. Occasionally even the fictional contenders are informed by docs, as was Gravity heavily modeled after footage from the IMAX movie Hubble 3D. Lately I’ve noticed a phenomenon where a lot of the 2014 Best Picture candidates are not just easily tied to past documentaries but specifically correspond quite perfectly with docs that are also in contention for Academy Awards this year. This isn’t to say all the following titles up for the Best Picture or Best Documentary categories will wind up nominees, but it sure would be cool for the five in the latter group to line up with five of the former and that could lead to a whole segment of the ceremony devoted to nonfiction and the different ways to tell true stories, depict actual events and address real issues and ideas. They could even make it a musical number.

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Nick Cave

By most accounts, Nick Cave is a particular taste, only occasionally entering pop culture by covering iconic songs or collaborating with pop superstars like Kylie Minogue. Yet the man who “sings every line like a Batman villain” thrives on film. His idiosyncratic brand of storytelling songwriting morphs to the occasion. It’s a strange phenomenon of film – that particular songs about particular experiences can become so universal in the right filmmaker’s hands. But this isn’t merely a songwriter whose early work is continually reembraced and reimagined like Leonard Cohen. Nick Cave is a ghost who haunts cinema with his melancholy and anger, and a noticeable presence within it – creating, scoring and performing for the camera. 20,000 Days on Earth, out this week, reinforces his image as the cinematic preacher, depicting 24 fictional hours of his life, but his life on screen stretches much farther – especially in these 7 glorious uses of his music and presence.

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Zoolander

We’ve been hearing rumors about a second Zoolander feature for what seems like years now — hey, it has actually been whole years! — and while we never exactly gave up hope that we would (one day!) suck back another hot batch of orange mocha Frappuccinos with the gang again, we haven’t been holding our breath on the feature. Turns out, that’s a good thing! We, like, totally would have died! But Zoolander 2 does apparently live, and it’s started casting to prove it. Deadline reports that Zoolander 2, set to be directed by star Ben Stiller and with a script by Justin Theroux (remember, he penned Tropic Thunder for Stiller), will feature a part for Penelope Cruz of all starlets, with Stiller back as the Blue Steel-faced model moron, and rumors that we can expect to see both Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell back for more vigorously persisting. There’s no word on what we can expect to see from the film beyond this particular line-up of talents, but we’ve got some ideas. Here’s what we need — nay, require — from Zoolander 2:

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The Graduate

This week the world lost a peerless filmmaker (and EGOT winner) who delivered a hot tub full of fantastic films. Mike Nichols put Dustin Hoffman in a compromising position, tortured Meryl Streep and found a grounding commonality even with his most extraordinary characters. We’ll celebrate his work with Professor John Whitehead, author of “Mike Nichols and the Cinema of Transformation,” and try to recapture what made his stories so moving. Plus, Geoff answers your screenwriting questions about third person expository openings (so to speak), the new trend in query letters and whether you should get a script consultant. Double plus, we’ll chat briefly about Bill Cosby and the question of enjoying good art from bad people. You should follow the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. Please review us on iTunes Download Episode #77 Directly Or subscribe through iTunes

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1984

Unless you’re a superhero movie with a release date set way in advance, it’s not easy these days to know when your movie will wind up produced let alone released. A good example is Selma, which despite being about one of history’s greatest real-life superheroes, Martin Luther King Jr., had initially been slated to shoot back in the Spring of 2010. Four years later it finally went in front of cameras, by this time with a new director and distributor attached, as well as an additional producer by the name of Oprah Winfrey. It opens this Christmas, a few months ahead of the 50th anniversary of the landmark events it depicts, the protest marches in support of voting rights in Alabama, and of course it now seems as perfectly timed as can be. Not just because of the anniversary, either. There are plenty factors that make a movie like Selma relevant today. Many mentioned this summer’s Ferguson protests when the first trailer arrived, and then the cast also acknowledged the connection on the red carpet of its AFI Fest debut this month. Film critic James Rocchi also tweeted this week that “if you don’t think Selma is about 2014 as much as 1965″ you should read the comments on a Breitbart.com article about the movie’s premiere. And with this a significant election year, the issue of voter disenfranchisement has continued to be a big deal. Then again, the latter two things could have provided timeliness in any of the past six years that Selma had been in development. There’s a […]

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Fifty Shades of Grey

Denigrate Fifty Shades of Grey all you want. Call it smut; argue that those who read it are “at increased risk of engaging in binge drinking and having multiple sex partners.” Decry it, for as a piece of Twilight fan-fiction that (as a series) spent 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, it’s literal masturbation material being eaten up to a mass audience. Go ahead and say it right now, if you’d like (I’ll probably agree with you). But for all the flack thrown Fifty Shades‘ way, there’s something curiously admirable about it. Not necessarily to do with the movie, but with its marketing: how a few brave souls have been tasked with repackaging cut-and-paste Twilight fan porn into something appropriate for a prime-time TV spot. To that, a new trailer for Fifty Shades dropped last week. It’s steamy, but also weirdly cold and emotionless. It tells us explicitly that this is a movie about people doin’ it with whips and chains, but doesn’t deign to show us much whipping or chaining. On its own, that sounds pretty on the ball for a Fifty Shades movie. But what if we broaden the context? How do other sex movies — that is, films explicitly about sex, with porking as a central plot point — pitch themselves to potential viewers? Well, let’s dig back through the years and find out.

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Housebound Movie

One of the more refreshing horror movies to come out lately is the New Zealand comedy Housebound. After an exciting film festival run, the movie has gotten a U.S. home video release. The story is an homage to various horror films, including The Legend of Hell House, The Changeling, and The Evil Dead. Spinning off the ghost hunting craze and borrowing from some home invasion thrillers, Housebound is one of those movies worth seeking out. Recorded in August 2014, before the actors actually saw the final version of the film, the production brain trust took some time to drink beer and watch the movie together. Here is the result.

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panthers-1

Have you ever explored the places where movies were made in your city? We partnered with car2go to explore our own local movie landmarks and we think you should do the same. Click here to see our photo tour of Austin’s most famous movie locations.

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Steve Jobs biopic

On the surface, the news is strange: an Aaron Sorkin-penned script — an ambitious one, to boot! — about one of the modern world’s great visionaries just can’t get made. But upon closer examination, it seems clear that Sony’s Steve Jobs biopic was never going to pan out. With the news (via Variety) that Sony has effectively tossed their long-gestating project into a teensy, tiny trash can somewhere (perhaps someone just slid their mouse over an icon, clicked, held, and moved?), it seems as if this feature may never come to fruition. News that Universal may pick up the feature is initially heartening, but we’ve got a better idea: just don’t make it. Or, perhaps more accurately — and yes, far less salaciously — just don’t make it as is.

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Breathless Movie

Jean-Luc Godard’s career has been devoted to both honoring and destroying cinema, to taking it apart and refitting it anew, and to making it speak against those who most often speak for it. Godard’s film’s have addressed a wide range of subjects – from Vietnam to prostitution to revolution to Jane Fonda – but they are, invariably, about cinema. From his Molotov cocktail of a debut, Breathless, to his latest push at the boundaries of form, Goodbye to Language 3D, the former Cahiers du Cinema scribe and New Wave pioneer has made a career out of exploring what can be done with a device as powerful as cinema. At age 83, he remains a tireless essayist of the medium, constantly provoking , questioning and challenging, searching for new ways to redefine and deconstruct what makes cinema work. So upon the release of his latest, here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the director who once said that “all you need for a movie is a gun and a girl.”

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The Invisible Man 1933

One of the most common fantasy powers to have – arguably right up there with flying and super strength – is the power of invisibility. Long before Harry Potter got his invisibility cloak or Susan Storm was given the ability to make herself invisible, H.G. Wells introduced modern popular culture to the double-sided coin this power could hold. Years after Wells wrote his book “The Invisible Man,” Universal Studios adapted the story into a film with Claude Rains, which spawned several inferior sequels. Throughout the years, our fascination with invisibility continued to show, in modern versions of the story by John Carpenter (Memoirs of an Invisible Man) and Paul Verhoeven (Hollow Man) as well as elements of other films like the goofy sci-fi invisible Aston Martin in Die Another Day. In fact, invisibility shows up so much in movies that it got me thinking about it more than I ever did walking past the girls’ shower room while I was in high school. Could a person really ever become invisible?

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Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy

James Gunn’s Marvel space opera Guardians of the Galaxy might just now be making it into our homes — via Digital HD this week and Blu-ray/DVD in a few weeks — but it’s long been on our minds. In fact, Gunn’s foray into massively budgeted comic book territory (namely the far reaches of space) still sits at the top of the 2014 box office rankings, having brought in over $330 million to date. This isn’t always a recipe for success during award season. And seeing as this is a column about award season, you might be wondering why we’re even talking about Marvel’s monster hit of the summer. Well, because this is an award season column that focuses on the movie itself and whether it’s deserving of recognition. And big box office or not, Mr. Gunn’s film has plenty to offer those who hand out golden statues at the end of the year. So let’s just go ahead and build our own Guardians of the Galaxy Oscar buzz…

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The Cosby Show

Yesterday, Roxane Gay published a passionate, compelling and provocative piece on the recent rape accusations that have re-surfaced against Bill Cosby. In the piece, Gay recounts how meaningful The Cosby Show was to her as a child growing up in a black middle-class family, when she was unable to find representations of her world onscreen. She brings this up to demonstrate how Cosby, who has refused to even respond to the accusations except through a lawyer, is hiding behind the goodwill he has earned through his career. As a response, Gay has a clear and simple wish: “We have to demand that his show be taken off the air.” If she was referring to his upcoming show for NBC or his new Netflix comedy special, her words had an immediate impact: both were canceled within 24 hours. But it stands to reason she is also referring to reruns of The Cosby Show. After all, Cosby still gets paid royalties from his prior works, and Gay has asked her audience to “stop supporting any of his endeavors.” From Gay’s perspective, an artist who commits atrocities against his or her fellow man should have their work boycotted because “humanity is nothing compared to art.” It’s that last sentence – the final phrase of her entire article, in fact – that seems wrong to me. How can the concepts of humanity and art be separated? Isn’t art the place where we have conversations about our humanity and, in many cases, demonstrate it? In […]

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Blade Runner Roy Batty

This year we had Maleficent, and Sony is working on a Sinister Six movie. Wicked has been on the verge of being made for years. Now is the age of the villain film. They’ve moved beyond the horror genre (where Jason and Freddy are the real stars) and now anyone is fair game. I, for one, am stoked. Let’s get some bad guy movies for…

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The DUFF

You’d be forgiven if you watched the first trailer for Ari Sandel‘s The DUFF and believed that you were watching a trailer for a new parody feature, in the vein of Not Another Teen Movie or Epic Movie. After all, this first trailer hits all the beats of parody, filled with the kind of worn-out tropes and flaccid observations about teen life that would not be out of place with a poorly received nineties teen comedy or a tongue-in-cheek send-up from the aughts. The problem, of course, is that The DUFF is a straightforward feature. In short terms, it’s all real. As our friends over at UpRoxx note, “someone has made an unsatirical Not Another Teen Movie,” one that even uses the old “this girl who wears overalls is unattractive and we know that because she wears overalls” trick. And it’s certainly an old trick. It’s just too bad it hasn’t gone anywhere since 1999, when She’s All That used it as a plot point, or even 1986, when Pretty In Pink did it, too. Some things don’t change, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t — or that films like The DUFF have irreparably broken the very cycle that is responsible for giving us modern teen classics.

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Touchstone Pictures

Have you seen the video of Benedict Cumberbatch doing impressions of 11 celebrities in under 60 seconds? Of course you have. As our pal Alexander Huls pointed out on Twitter, “What do we love more than celebrities? Celebrities imitating OTHER celebrities!” It is a strange phenomenon, and maybe we have Jimmy Fallon and his talk show to blame. Ellen DeGeneres is guilty, too. And much of it has to do with Saturday Night Live lately, I bet. But really it’s just always been a thing for comedians to do, and then some of those comedians become celebrities themselves (many of them are the butt of other people’s impressions). What’s not quite as common as the talk show appearances, and therefore more interesting, are the celebrity impressions that wind up in movies. They too are performed by celebrities, but in the context of the movies it’s the characters they’re playing that are technically doing the impressions. That means they’re not always very good. Some of the following favorite scenes involve great impersonations and some are downright terrible, yet even the latter are awesome in their hilariously intentional awfulness. For Cumberbatch, his next step is to do something like this. Preferably doing his Alan Rickman as Dr. Strange. 

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Serial Podcast

It’s happened. A podcast has achieved the status of a cultural phenomenon. Where podcasting has largely either operated as a supplementary commentary on culture (from new films to dead authors to linguistics, and probably everything else) or an extension of talk radio (political or public radio-style podcasts), serving as the custodian of our connected watercooler conversations, This American Life’s Serial podcast has now found itself at the center of a cultural conversation and a thing to be witnessed on its own – the type of thing people make podcasts about. Serial as a phenomenon can be largely credited to its inventive use of the medium – to tell a story over weeks like a must-see television show. And like the way we currently watch television, Serial has inspired a regular output of recaps, conversations, fan theories, thinkpieces, and parodies. Add the stakes inherent in the fact that Serial is one journalist’s episode-to-episode investigation of a complicated 15-year-old murder case, and what you have is the capacities of a storytelling platform transforming real life into accessible, compelling, perhaps exploitative drama. But the way we’ve been making sense of Serial as a phenomenon says a great deal about how we relate to – and “elevate” – new media phenomena based on prior media phenomena.

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Dance moves

Director Jon M. Chu has already helped successfully usher the Step Up films into the realm of true franchise greatness — the filmmaker directed both Step Up 2: The Streets and Step Up 3D, ensuring a long life for the world’s most beloved dance franchise and don’t you dare argue that point with me — and now he looks to be turning his attention to a generation desperate for still more popping and locking. Deadline reports that Chu is now producing Can’t Touch This, a new dance feature that is billed as “a high school dance comedy set in the golden era of the 1990s.” Although the film’s specific storyline has not yet be revealed, it seems safe to assume that the dulcet tones of M.C. Hammer will prove to be a large part of the feature’s plot and/or soundtrack. If nothing else, we can surely expect to see a bevy of parachute pants and mind-blowing bits of neon exploding across the screen. Chu and his fellow producer Hieu Ho and screenwriters Annie Mebane and Steve Basilone are lucky enough to have chosen an era rich with lots of potential dances to pull from, from the mundane (Vogueing) to the enduring (The Tootsee Roll). But which dances will make the final cut? We’e got some ideas. If Chu and company are really going for true nineties authenticity, there are a hefty number of dance crazes his feature needs to make some hip-shaking room for. Get down!

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Tron

Ashe never got to see a ton of modern classics from his youth, so we’re making him watch them all as a nostalgia-less adult. Check out the inaugural article for more info. 1980s pop sci-fi month continues! I’ve been trying to be picky because, well, there are a lot of movies that could count as pop sci-fi from the 80s and there are only four weeks in a month. Tron was on my list from the get-go, however, because I’ve wanted to see it for years and just never sat down and actually watched it. Now I have! Basic plot summary, in case it’s been a while: Young Jeff Bridges gets stuck in a computer system that has more in common with retro video games than actual computers. That’s… really about it. It’s not exactly plot heavy. In fact, some of the plot makes zero sense but gets handwaved away. What exactly is the extent of Flynn’s “User” powers? Why exactly does a User get more power inside the computer anyway? Apparently, he just does, consistency be damned.

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HOUSEBOUND discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Housebound Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) has made a series of poor decisions of late with the most recent one seeing her sentenced to several months of house arrest in the home where she grew up, and the prospect of living beneath the same roof as her mom is more terrifying than jail. The two clash almost immediately, but their battle of wills is interrupted by the realization that the house may be haunted by the restless spirit of a teenage girl who was murdered there before Kylie’s mom bought the place. With the help of Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), a security guard with a belief in the supernatural, she sets out to identify the murderer and set the trapped spirit free. It should surprise no one that this may not be a wise decision. I’m not sure what New Zealand has been pumping into their water supplies, but this makes the second film from the country this year to deliver an immensely entertaining mix of horror and comedy. The other one, What We Do In the Shadows, puts a much heavier focus on the laughs than it does the thrills, but Housebound is still a frequently funny film that also happens to feature plenty of scares and overall creepiness. The pair will make for a damn fine double feature once they’re both available, but for now fans of high energy scares with […]

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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