Features

Love Is Strange

Love Is Strange is a movie about, well, love. It’s about the love shared by its central couple, George (Alfred Molina) and Ben (John Lithgow), but there’s more to it than that. It’s about all of its varieties and inflections, and the way that it’s expressed by husbands, nieces-in-law and friends. Beautifully lit spaces, subtly crafted dialogue and open, naturalistic performances from the whole cast help director Ira Sachs play with the manifestations of this title concept. The MPAA ratings board, meanwhile, didn’t pay attention to any of this. Love Is Strange was given an R rating. There’s no sex in the film, nor any notable violence. The reason this family drama wasn’t considered family-friendly was “language,” that ever-vague, often ironically meaningless word. What exactly does that mean? Sometimes it means too many “fucks,” or some similar breach of the arbitrary mathematics of swear-word policing. Here, though, it seems to be something else. An entire script in which the humanity of gay people is taken for granted may have been too linguistically salacious for the MPAA.

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Scream Factory

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Legend of Hell House The Belasco House had seen its fair share of tragedy and carnality even before the man who had it built disappeared, but the years since have seen a continuation of death and terror. It’s known as Hell House, the Mt. Everest of haunted houses, and now a team consisting of a scientist, his wife and two mediums is going in to prove once and for all whether or not ghosts and the afterlife exist. Two of them are going to find out first hand before the week is out. Richard Matheson’s novel (Hell House) was adapted to the screen way back in ’73, but it remains one of the best haunted house flicks out there. There are legitimate chills throughout, some PG-rated sexiness and a wonderfully intense performance from Roddy McDowall too. Even better, at least for someone like myself who favors grounded explanations, the script gives nods to both the supernatural and the scientific. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: interviews, trailer]

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Time Bandits

Charles Dickens once called procrastination the thief of time. Respectfully I must disagree with Ol’ Charlie, because clearly the Time Bandits are the real thieves of time.It’s right there in their name. Continuing on our journey across the temporal map of great sci-fi comedies, Cargill and I splashdown into a dark and wonderful Terry Gilliam film that’s supposedly for children. We will recount our favorite scenes, discuss the film’s turbulent production and completely change the way you hear the movie’s closing song. You should follow Brian (@Briguysalisbury), Cargill (@Massawyrm), and the show (@Junkfoodcinema). Download Episode #21 Directly

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Daniels in My Best Friends Sweating

Last night, amidst the butts and the FEMINISM and the important message from Miley Cyrus, the VMAs bestowed its latest award for Best Direction to DANIELS, aka Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, for helming the Lil Jon and DJ Snake music video for “Turn Down For What.” You didn’t miss that part of the show, because this category isn’t millennial-friendly enough for the telecast (nor was the one given to Oscar-nominated art director Anastasia Masaro), but somewhere in the night there were some Moonman statues given to a duo that might just be the franchise film directors of the future. In winning the award, Kwan and Scheinert follow in the footsteps of such notable directors as David Fincher (The Social Network), Spike Jonze (Her), Adam Yauch (Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That!), Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo), Tarsem Singh (Mirror Mirror), Jake Scott (Welcome to the Rileys), Samuel Bayer (Nightmare on Elm Street), Steve Barron (the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine). Also among the past winners are Marc Webb and Francis Lawrence, directors of the Amazing Spider-Man and Hunger Games franchises, respectively. Most of those filmmakers were multi-nominees in the category at the VMAs, and a couple are multi-winners. This was only DANIELS’ first nomination for directing (they were previously nominated in the Best Editing category in 2011, for “Simple Math” by Manchester Orchestra), yet they’ve been making videos for years, for clients including Passion Pit, Tenacious D, The Shins and Chromeo. And they’ve directed a number of hilarious shorts and just recently were […]

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Humans Need Not Apply

Why Watch? If you’re feeling anxious about what the future holds, this short film from CGP Grey isn’t going to help. In Humans Need Not Apply, a horrible dystopian future present reigns over the landscape, forcing humans from their jobs as less-expensive robots become more available. If you’re certain that robots won’t be coming for your job, think again. This documentary has some startling statistics about how many fields they’re already in and will be in soon. Everyone from office workers to your neighborhood professional painter might be looking for a new gig. The caveat to all this (which the doc doesn’t go into) is that — while this revolution is wholly different from others — it will still have to abide by the basic rules of economics. Simply put, if everyone is out of work, no one will have any money to buy the products that companies need the robots to make. That’s both a chilling nightmare scenario and the safeguard against catastrophic damage as we transition to a new economy. Still, Humans Need Not Apply is  fascinating look at the future we’re currently living that recognizes both the wondrous potential for automation and the bedrock danger that it presents. Plus, if you’re Ray Kurzweil, this should put a big smile on your face.

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Richard Attenborough

This isn’t the story of a ship, but it starts with one. A month after the real-life Royal Navy resupplied Malta during Operation Pedestal, In Which We Serve hit theaters in the UK. It’s a WWII story made and released during WWII, featuring the sinking of the HMS Torrin as a symbol for the temporary loss that makes us all fight harder for the larger victory. A seafaring Alamo whose stalwart captain goes on to fire even larger guns from an even stouter ship at the destined-to-fail Nazis. This was Richard Attenborough‘s film debut as an actor. He played a yellow-gutted shell loader who abandons his post, leaving the men up top without one of their ammo sources. It’s a role hidden within a sea of other characters, but Attenborough — whose character doesn’t even have a name — gets a spotlit moment to twist his face in terror until ultimately breaking. The movie was nominated for Best Picture and Screenplay, but it’s not like his seconds-long turn as a coward made Attenborough a star overnight.

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Miley Cyrus

Marlon Brando was, quite possibly, the last celebrity we expected to be imitated on last night’s MTV Video Music Awards — to wit, this was a show that included an homage to that time that Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake wore matching denim outfits, so that’s the direction things were headed early on — but there it was, a callback to forty-one years ago, delivered care of Miley Cyrus. No, you’re not hallucinating. Cyrus picked up the Moon Man for Video of the Year for her “Wrecking Ball” (a song that I, somewhat begrudgingly, really like), but although she stood up when her name was announced, she ultimately pushed a tall young man to the stage to accept her award from a charmingly bewildered Jimmy Fallon, who was dressed as if he had been shaken out of a Miami Vice box set. Jesse identified himself as a homeless youth, and took the opportunity to talk about his plight in front of a somewhat baffled audience. (Cyrus took the opportunity to both cry on command and bring attention to an issue most people like to ignore, so she’s definitely working on the positive side here). It’s not the first time this has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last.

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Radius-TWC

The definition of spoiler used to be pretty black-and-white. Back in the summer of 1980, was it a spoiler telling someone Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father? Without a doubt. How about telling someone Bruce Willis is actually a ghost in the 1999 film The Sixth Sense? Absolutely. Or what about in 2001 how Captain Leo Davidson discovers the Apes inexplicably took over the Earth in Tim Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes? Nobody probably cared in that case, but the point stands. Lately, for some, the definition of “spoiler” has altered, mainly because people have been growing increasingly spoiler sensitive over the past few years. Some people actively seek out spoilers before they see a film or a television episode, but for others the mere mention of a relatively small plot detail can be enough to send them into a rage. The most recent film to dredge up new debate on the topic is The One I Love, a new sci-fi drama starring Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss. The two actors play a couple, Ethan and Sophie, who have been having some relationship issues. Their marriage counselor, played by Ted Danson, suggests a getaway. He tells them of a beautiful retreat that’s helped rekindle various other marriages. Ethan and Sophie agree to go. This all happens in the first 14 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, something strange happens. Some consider saying even that much to be a spoiler, let alone actually identifying what the strange thing is, but here’s the issue at hand: That “thing” is the set up of […]

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THE WIRE 3

The Weekend Watch is an open thread where you can share what you’ve recently watched, offer suggestions on movies and TV shows we should check out (or warnings about stuff to avoid) and discover queue-filling goodies from other FSR readers. The comments section awaits. I’ll get the ball rolling with the movies/TV my eyeballs took in this weekend.

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Sin City 2

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Doctor Who Deep Breath

Would a Doctor by any other face smell so sweet? Not if he’s wearing a tramp’s coat, apparently. With the first episode of Doctor Who‘s Series 8, Peter Capaldi is a jarring presence as the Twelfth Doctor, mainly to companion Clara “Impossible Girl” Oswald (Jenna Coleman) but also to an audience used to younger actors in the role since its reboot almost a decade ago. It’s not just because he’s older, though; the thick, sometimes hard to understand Scottish brogue is as rough as his new “attack-eyebrows” appear to be. And maybe it’s an odd appearance because we’ve seen Capaldi on the show prominently before. Does the Doctor acknowledge this deja vu? Has he seen this face before, as he says in the alley to that tramp, in the same place we have? Is it just a coincidence that Capaldi played Caecilius in the 2008 episode “The Fires of Pompeii” and this new episode, “Deep Breath,” debuted on the same date as that earlier one took place, only 1,935 years earlier? This is one of the many things we’ll have to wait to see as the series continues. I also look forward to seeing if the show can quickly get over Capaldi’s distinction and offer up some truly entertaining installments. “Deep Breath,” written by showrunner Steven Moffat and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Ben Wheatley (Kill List; Sightseers), was not very interesting plot-wise. For one thing, there was the matter of Moffat bringing back the Clockwork Robots from “The Girl in the Fireplace,” […]

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Hare-um Scare-um Bugs Bunny

Tomorrow, August 24th, is the 75th birthday of Andy Panda. How are you going to celebrate? I am obviously kidding. No one cares about Andy Panda. He now sits in cartoon obscurity next to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Gabby Gator and Dapper Denver Dooley. Yet it is his 75th birthday and we should honor it somehow. The very first Andy Panda cartoon, aptly titled Life Begins for Andy Panda, premiered on August 24th, 1939. It was Hollywood’s greatest year, even if its cartoons may not have lived on with the vigor of its live action triumphs. That said, three other cartoons that also premiered during the month of August 1939 offer an entertaining snapshot of this particular chapter in the Golden Age of American Animation. This was something of a transitional moment, between what cartoon historian Piotr Borowiec calls the “Disney Realism” and “High Warner” styles. That sounds high-minded and obscure, but it’s just a fancy way of explaining the shift from Disney’s talking animals that obey most of the laws of physics to Tex Avery’s talking animals that don’t. The details are a bit more complicated, which is why it’s more fun and more informative to just watch the cartoons.

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Body Heat nude bodies

The Sin City movies are remakes. Not of other movies, but of the comic books they’re based on. Before you argue that this means they’re “adaptations,” not “remakes,” let me explain. More than perhaps any other comic book movies, these are so faithful in style to the source that they’re redundant. They’re just like the old cartoons we watched as kids that took children’s books, lifted the pictures right off the page and animated them. Now we see a lot of that done in documentaries about artists, such as the recent one on Ralph Steadman. The main difference is that Sin City and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For use actors in a sort of moving tableau vivant recreation of Frank Miller‘s drawings, panel by panel — or shot-for-shot. Another thing the Sin City movies are, of course, is a series of film-noir-influenced anthologies that are far more violent and explicitly sex-filled than any true entry into the classic film genre. Unless you want to count all the remakes of films noir that came about in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, when Hollywood realized they could recycle a lot of golden age works for a new cinematic era, post-Hays Code, allowing for graphic violence and, more importantly, graphic sex and nudity. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is likewise noted for its nudity, nearly every review pointing out how naked Eva Green is in the movie – not a surprise given that the original, banned poster depicted the actress in a fairly revealing […]

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Radius-TWC

This will probably be difficult to believe for some of you, but we walk into every movie hoping it will be the best movie. We may criticize a trailer or point out early concerns, but once we sit down and the movie starts digitally unspooling before our eyes our hope every single time is to experience something fantastic. When a film succeeds on that front we shout it from the highest virtual rooftops, but that isn’t always the outcome. The pure flip-side of this of course are the movies we leave absolutely despising. Usually the films in this group aren’t exactly surprises — think Blended, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Sex Tape, Hercules — and while we hoped for better we ended up with pretty much what we expected. But sometimes the movies we expected more from end up being major disappointments too. A quick poll of the staff revealed a pretty varied list of films fitting this description, some of which are viewed as unqualified successes by the rest of us. Keep reading to see ten of the movies that left us unsatisfied, underwhelmed and ultimately disappointed.

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Get On Up

It is hard to believe summer is almost over, but as we look back on a season that gave us surprise hits (who knew Edge of Tomorrow would be so entertaining?) and surprise misses (Let’s Be Cops didn’t quite capture the buddy comedy magic it was looking for) the most interesting trend to emerge was how this summer’s soundtracks were all about the past. From 1920s jazz to 1960s funk to 1970s pop rock, this summer felt more like a music history lesson than the expected barrage of radio hits piped into every blockbuster looking to generate box office heat. (Granted those were there too – looking at you Transformers: Age of Extinction and Imagine Dragons.) And audiences were into this change of pace. So much so that a soundtrack full of songs from the 1970s made it to the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart.

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Killing of America 1

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a fake of a movie. It is a concretion of film noir tropes that has none of the pathos or thematic richness that people love noir for. Its paper characters match its comic-booky aesthetic, which was interesting when the first Sin City came out nine years (!) ago, but is stale now. It aims for cheap thrills, which is not necessarily an unworthy goal, but it fails to deliver any of those thrills. The movie is just one bland act of violence after another. The Killing of America is also one act of violence after another, but it actually has something on its mind. And as a cavalcade of actual death, assembled in an unpolished print and unreleased to this day in the U.S., this shockumentary has a billion times more outsider credibility than the hardboiled poser that is A Dame to Kill For. Both films depict worlds of total moral decay, where murder is a distressingly commonplace part of daily life. But Sin City invites you in to be turned on by this, to revel in the brutality, while The Killing of America wants you to question the kind of culture that would produce Sin City in the first place. READ MORE AT NONFICS

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Warner Bros.

I hate to be the one to inform you of this, but Hollywood is in a box office slump. A Great Depression of film profitability, where consumer scorn for summer blockbusters is bitter dust, choking the once-fertile farmland of summer tentpole season. How bad is it? This year, the total domestic gross of all our summer films comes to a paltry $3.46B domestic (for convenience’s sake, assume all total gross figures to be domestic from here on out). And this makes 2014 the first year since 2006 where the total gross was under $4B. Technically, the summer’s not over- Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, that George Takei doc To Be Takei or the horror film As Above, So Below could all potentially pull in a billion or two… but that seems a tad unlikely. Unless To Be Takei ends with half-hour of Takei in closeup; eyes glowing red, sultry baritone commanding the audience to spend their life savings on more To Be Takei. It’s entirely possible. Whatever he wants, we’ll do it. But is a mere billion-dollar slump something to get all up in arms about? Yes! Extremely. At least, that’s what the press has been doing all summer, clamoring about that this summer’s film crop has suffered severe cardiac arrest, and each weekend’s big seller is the only thing that can resuscitate it.

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The Zero Theorem

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Coma patients

In the movie If I Stay, Chloe Grace Moretz plays a teenage girl who winds up in a coma when she’s in a car accident with her family. As her body lies in a hospital bed, her consciousness stands to the side, able to observe what’s going on in the room. She can watch her loved ones visit, see her boyfriend play her a song. And she also flashes back to past events while contemplating whether or not she should wake up and stay alive. Her choice, apparently. Do comatose patients actually have out-of-body experiences? Some claim so, but OBEs are not really scientifically recognized, at least not as anything other than a dream. Movies aren’t subject to the rules of accepted science, though, and that goes for depictions of comas in general. In 2006, a doctor conducted a study of 30 movies featuring comatose persons (not including Liz Garbus‘s solid HBO doc Coma, made after the study) and concluded that only two of them were accurately portrayed: Reversal of Fortune and The Dreamlife of Angels (the study is published in the medical journal “Neurology”, which you can pay to read here; but you can download the data-supplement list of movie titles here). That was mainly for what comas are like externally and for the patient afterward, however. There’s not really much to go on as far as what it’s like internally from the perspective of the person in the coma. So, this week’s edition of The Movies Tell Us is only briefly focused on […]

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The Giver

With our federal government currently suffering record levels of disapproval, political pundits are starting to look to the future. Millenials are quickly aging into a vital role in our national culture, but their politics are hard to parse. Many pundits have assumed them to be liberal, based on the instrumental role they played in Obama’s ascendance in 2008, but recent evidence suggests the picture is not so clear. Last month, an article at The Atlantic commented smugly on this phenomenon, arguing that the politics of Millennials don’t make any sense. “Millennials don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to economics,” the author wrote. “Forty-two percent…think socialism is preferable to capitalism, but only 16 percent…could accurately define socialism in the survey.”  But if politics is downstream of culture, maybe the movies, which count young Americans as their most prized demographic, can tell us more about the ascending generation’s complicated political values. As a case study, look at Hollywood’s hottest genre: the dystopian young adult adaptation. These films – such as The Hunger Games, Divergent, and the just-released The Giver – are hyper-political. They reflect our dissatisfaction with government and address the need for political revolution, but their politics are not radical, and their calls for change are increasingly uninspired. In fact, the evolution of the genre suggests that Millennials – to which these films are most heavily marketed – may be far more ready to abandon traditional liberalism that most pundits have suggested.

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