Features

Selma

Hollywood! They just love giving out awards, don’t they? And, in a stunningly lucid move from the moviemaking behemoth, most of those awards are happily and haphazardly doled out during the end of any given calendar year (we’re still confused about the timing of the Oscars, but what can you do). The Screen Actors Guild Awards will not be tossed out to packs of hungry actors until early in the new year, but this morning, SAG did everyone a solid and let a bunch of them know if they should bother to show up for the actual ceremony. That’s right, the SAG noms (sag-noms?) are here, and they are a bizarre combination of the head-slappingly obvious and the deeply, deeply weird. Awards season may drag, and it’s occasionally bafflingly picks (and snubs) like this that keep the whole thing ticking right along. Let’s take a look at the biggest surprises from this morning’s nominations:

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Anaconda Movie

Recently, the Discovery Channel aired a special called Eaten Alive, which featured naturalist Paul Rosolie making an attempt to be eaten alive by a full-grown anaconda. After plodding through most of the show, Rosolie manages to entice an anaconda to prey on him after he smeared himself with pig’s blood and dressed in a protective suit with a lifeline attached to a nearby tent. Only minutes after the giant snake took the Carrie-esque bait, Rosolie used his safe word, claiming the anaconda’s coils were squeezing him so hard that he feared his arm would break. Forgetting that anacondas are constrictors, preferring to kill their food by crushing and suffocating before swallowing, Rosolie barely got the top of his head wet with snake saliva before his team tore the snake off of him and fled for safety. While the show disappointed many fans hoping to see a man eaten alive by a snake, I decided to turn to the utmost authority on killer snakes available: the Oscar-worthy 1997 jungle horror movie Anaconda. However, watching the movie again, I realized there might be some things not quite right with it. And that got me thinking: Is there actually anything in Anaconda that is even remotely true?

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Neighbors Movie

While we’re all covering Marvel vs DC like a novelty boxing match, and some are ogling Sony’s dirty laundry, Universal Pictures quietly did the most interesting thing possible this year. The studio that brought us Lucy and Neighbors is on track to make record profits without releasing a single traditional blockbuster. As Scott Mendelson at Forbes points out, none of their films cost more than $70m to make, and only two (of 15) cost more than $40m. There was no spandex, the franchise entries were low budget horror (and the return of both dumb and his friend dumber), and there were no minions. Yet, as if by magic, Universal netted more money than they ever have before. They’re assured to be out of the Top Three when it comes to gross this year, but if they get sad about that they have the ability to buy a lot of Kleenex. Even so, there’s one reason to consider them superior to other studios and one reason to shrug at their profits.

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MAN OF STEEL

I want to say I’m sorry. I am one of the many who loved the beginning of Man of Steel enough to say I’d watch a whole movie set on Krypton. Those scenes felt like a new Star Wars episode when they arrived last summer. It was a thrill. But then so did parts of Thor: The Dark World and then Guardians of the Galaxy,and now we’re seeing footage from an actual new Star Wars episode coming soon, and the Man of Steel space opera opening just isn’t as special anymore. I no longer need a feature-length Kryptonian prequel. And I certainly don’t want a television series-length Kryptonian prequel. But reportedly there’s one of the latter in development at SyFy from Man of Steel screenwriter David Goyer. Am I partly to blame for maybe somewhere writing or tweeting about wanting something like this? If so, I apologize. Of course, the success of Gotham is likely more to do with it. That show is about Batman‘s world before Batman exists. Krypton will somewhat similarly be about Superman‘s world before Superman exists. Unlike with Gotham, there will not be a young Superman floating around, occasionally appearing as a reminder that it’s tangentially his origin story while also, more superficially, the start of many of his eventual nemeses. Kal-El, as he’s born on Krypton, quickly departs his planet within his first days of life. We can bet, however, that the show will still offer up some Superman bad guys in their early days, as a few are from or have […]

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Sucker Punch Movie

Recently, we’ve lived through trailers for Jurassic World, Terminator: Genisys, and Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.  Some people are getting way excited, but it’s worth keeping in mind that trailers are built specifically to make the movie look good. Now, we’re not saying anything about the quality of those movies. Just beware before you plunk down your hard-earned cash in case they end up like…

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Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick started early. The actress of both stage and screen earned her first Tony nomination at the tender age of 12 (for her turn in High Society), which she followed up five years later with an Independent Spirit Award nomination for her very first feature film role, in the big screen Camp. Kendrick has continued to pursue her movie career in the subsequent years, throwing most of her attention at various and varied cinematic endeavors, with significantly less attention paid to her stage work in the interim (Kendrick hasn’t starred in a stage outing since 2003). Yet Kendrick has never balked at her theatrical background, and she’s begun more effectively blending her various skills — namely, acting and singing — into her own unique career, becoming bankable and dependable in a way that her other peers have not. And she might be able to save the modern musical.

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To Live and Die in LA

Los Angeles is a city whose most privileged corners seem to prize youth at any cost against a backdrop of twelve-month sunshine. It is a city in which time moves differently than it does anywhere else, where the passing of seasons simply does not occur in as pronounced a fashion, and traffic replaces weather as the subject of universal conversation. It should come as no surprise, then, that Los Angeles has never been an iconic city for representing the holiday season. Where New York, Chicago, the suburban Midwest, and even Budapest have provided the settings for numerous entries in Hollywood’s holiday film canon, Los Angeles has rarely been used or imagined as a location that produces a distinct image of the holidays, despite the fact that it has provided soundstages for numerous movies revisited this time of year. This fact stands out in William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in LA, the director’s 1985 return to the type of fast-paced, gritty, realist police narrative that he made his name on a decade prior with The French Connection. To Live and Die in LA is known for many things – the launch of Willem Dafoe’s career, a wall-to-wall Wang Chung soundtrack, a crazy good high speed chase scene – but it isn’t known well enough as an odd yet fitting holiday movie for Los Angeles, and perhaps the subtlest Christmas movie ever made.

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CALVARY discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Calvary Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is a small town priest in rural Ireland who receives an oddly unwelcome confession one morning from someone who calmly promises to murder him by the week’s end. The priest goes on with his business, trying his best to do right, but the next seven days are filled with frustration, eccentricity and an unsettling energy in those around him. Writer/director John Michael McDonagh‘s second feature is a slowburn character piece that weaves black comedy and mystery through a soulful rumination on the power of forgiveness. Gleeson is a quietly rumbling powerhouse and gives an immensely affecting lead performance, and the supporting cast is a stellar mix of aggressively engaging friends, strangers and suspects including Chris O’Dowd, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, M. Emmet Walsh, Domhnall Gleeson (Brendan’s son) and Kelly Reilly. The script is filled with wisdom and wit, and it leaves you feeling drained and reflective on those who’ve passed through your own life. It’s my favorite film of the year. It’s the best film of the year. It will stay with you well into next year. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

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My Bloody Valentine

Well, it’s Christmas time at JFC, and that can mean only one thing: murder! No, we’re not talking about exploding turkeys or accidental candy cane impalement. It’s time to watch some ho-ho-horror movies! All this month, Cargill and I will be traversing the calendar and celebrating those horror flicks that seek to sever all joy from their designated season. These won’t always be Christmas horror, but they will always be sinfully delectable. First up, we park the car on February 14th and spend some quality time with My Bloody Valentine. This Canadian gem gave us a plethora of major miner frights and taught us that an engine block can double as an oven. Life may be like a box of chocolates, but MBV proves that box also contains plenty of death. Enjoy, and mark your calendars for the next bloody installment of this latest series! You should follow Brian (@Briguysalisbury), Cargill (@Massawyrm), and the show (@Junkfoodcinema). Download Episode #34 Directly

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Warner Bros. Entertainment

It’s sort of a random point for us to be suggesting directors for the solo Aquaman movie, what with its confirmation being nearly two months old and its actual existence being almost four years away. But it needs to be done eventually, and I thought today a good time as a response to Jason Momoa‘s comment at a Brazil comic book convention over the weekend that he wants Zack Snyder at the helm. It’s not that I really care if Snyder directed Aquaman, but I don’t see the assignment being very likely. He’s already done Man of Steel, is presently making Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and he’s set to take the reigns on at least the first Justice League movie. Warner Bros. and DC (and probably Snyder himself) has to prefer going with a bit more variety on this franchise. Like how they’ve already hired Michelle MacLaren for Wonder Woman. As the first filmmaker on board besides Snyder, MacLaren is hopefully a sign that they’re out to shake things up with some other, perfect choices for their solo superhero movies. That’s not to say that a woman is making Wonder Woman so a fish should make Aquaman, but there are some quite appropriate human directors who should be considered for the gig. Obviously the best person for the job is James Cameron, but that’s just never going to happen, and it’s not just because of his fictional attachment to an Aquaman movie on Entourage. The following six names, one of whom has worked closely with Cameron, are sort of runners […]

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Telltale Games

If you’re at all into this Game of Thrones thing, you might’ve heard rumblings of a Game of Thrones video game released this week. That, in itself, is nothing surprising. Only the peak of game franchises are rewarded with their own movies (and even then, those movies are almost exclusively crushing disappointments). On the other side of the curtain though, it seems like every movie from Mean Girls to The Penguins of Madagascar is given a cheap tie-in game that’ll just end up in a landfill somewhere. But Game of Thrones (or, to use its full, regal title, Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series, Episode 1: “Iron From Ice”) is, in fact, not crappy. It’s actually pretty great — not entirely a surprise, considering that Telltale Games was responsible for a previous The Walking Dead game that blew the doors off both the comic and the TV series of the same name. Also, HBO personally plucked away George R. R. Martin’s personal assistant, Ty Corey Franck, and handed him to Telltale as a story consultant just to keep things up to snuff. But is it worth it for those Game of Thrones aficionados that might not dig on video games? Is GoT:ATGS, E1: “IFI” a worthy companion during these long months away from the Seven Kingdoms? Well, let’s find out — and judge Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series not on its merits as a video game (that’s a job for Video Game School Rejects, and that site doesn’t […]

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The Newsroom

On paper, the idea was a good one: Aaron Sorkin would use his trademark fast-talking television style to tackle current events with his The Newsroom, an HBO series that boasted a stellar cast and an insider’s peek at, yes, an actual newsroom. Now in its third (and, thankfully, last) season, The Newsroom’s forward-thinking premise has proven to be staggeringly backwards, literally turning a show about the power and the immediacy of breaking news into a graveyard for old stories. The very nature of The Newsroom places it in the unenviable position of being salacious and exploitative without offering anything new to the conversation – simply because the conversations the show is so desperate to participate in are already over by the time new episodes air. Because of the nature of episodic television – especially cable television – “current” events that frame up the plot of any given episode are automatically dated, because the episodes just don’t air until many months later. No matter how searing and searching a Newsroom episode may be (and, yes, it’s been quite some time since the series was either thing), it will never be part of the cultural conversation. It’s too late, which is why you shouldn’t watch The Newsroom. At least, well, not right now.

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The Hunger Games Mockingjay

2014 was the year of great soundtracks. Thanks to films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Boyhood, soundtracks full of recognizable songs have never been more important to the movie going experience. But there is one soundtrack that was promoted as much as the film itself – the one curated by Lorde for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. There is always a good amount of hype and publicity leading up to the release of a movie in a popular franchise series, and The Hunger Games is no exception, but along with the expected appearances of the cast at various premieres and interviews, a large part of the promotional focus for Mockingjay Part 1 was put on the film’s music. Thanks to Lorde’s involvement as “curator,” Mockingjay’s soundtrack almost became a star in its own right getting attention from MTV, Billboard, and Rolling Stone. Even Katniss Everdeen herself (Jennifer Lawrence) told the media while doing press for Mockingjay in London, “I think Katniss would be a huge Lorde fan.” And while that may be true, none of the music Lorde selected (or collaborated on) for the soundtrack made it into the final film. (Save for the soundtrack’s one single, “Yellow Flicker Beat,” but that only plays over the credits.) So what was the point?

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Monsters Vs Aliens

Wild opens this weekend, heralding the triumphant return (and likely second Oscar nomination) of Reese Witherspoon. It’s actually only the highest profile of three performances by the actress this fall. She’s also in The Good Lie, which opened in October, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming Inherent Vice. As if that weren’t enough, she also produced Gone Girl. It’s a fortuitous few months, especially given what many consider a years-long fallow period. We’re only now emerging from the unfortunate wake of How Do You Know, This Means War, and smaller failures like Devil’s Knot. It’s about time. And, as every American knows, a good year for Witherspoon is a good year for us all. So, to celebrate, let’s watch a cartoon! Monsters vs. Aliens opened just over two years after the star won her Oscar for Walk the Line. It was her only feature film in 2009, stuck between 2008’s Four Christmases and 2010’s How Do You Know. She’s the lead, the only technically human major character in a film about blobs and space cockroaches. Yet given the way animation isn’t taken too seriously, particularly the stuff directed toward children, no one seems to talk about the film’s massive success in the context of Witherspoon’s career. Monsters vs. Aliens wasn’t only her biggest hit during the post-Oscar slump, it made more money worldwide than anything else she’s done.

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Journey Back to Oz

This summer marked the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, and it was a big enough occasion that Warner Bros. not only retrofitted the classic fantasy film for a one-week IMAX 3D re-release but also spent $25m on marketing its brief return to theaters. Meanwhile, there’s absolutely no fanfare at all for the movie’s sequel, which also has a special birthday this year. No, I’m not referring to Return to Oz (which likely also won’t get much notice for its 30th anniversary next summer). There is another “Oz” movie that was more directly intended to be an official follow-up to the 1939 version, an animated feature titled Journey Back to Oz, which hit theaters on this day back in 1974. Aside from taking place soon after The Wizard of Oz and being mostly yet loosely adapted from L. Frank Baum’s second Oz book, “The Marvelous Land of Oz,” the major significance and link to MGM’s beloved musical is in the casting. Margaret Hamilton is the only member of the earlier movie’s ensemble to return, which is interesting because her character in Wizard, the Wicked Witch of the West, had been killed. So, she voiced the part of Aunt Em. Clara Blandick, who played Em in Wizard, died the year this movie began production, which explains her not reprising the role herself, but then again 1939 cast members Bert Lahr, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Billie Burke and even Judy Garland were alive during the vocal recordings, which had actually begun way back in 1962. Garland’s replacement as Dorothy, […]

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Merry Friggin Christmas

There was once a time when Christmas movies were about Claymation heroes fighting abominable villains, visits by ghosts and angels, and young dreams for a Red Ryder B.B. Gun. Now these classics share the stage with hordes of super-basic, super-saccharine fare with the simplicity of a greeting card (and not surprisingly, often produced by the channel of a greeting card company). Instead of worlds full of Santas and mystical powers, these are basic escapist fantasies where life can be fixed in the blink of an eye – where soulmates can be found near and far, where prison sentences can be avoided by finding love, and kindness will get you everything you’ve ever hoped for. These movies are embraced by some and mocked by others, as their simplistic storylines are flooded with little subtlety and cast with actors who are often firmly out of the spotlight. But there’s more talent in these films than a quick glimpse suggests. There are no shortage of C-list names attached to these films – of which there are more than you’d ever realize – but it’s surprising to see just how many talents have moonlighted in Christmas fantasy. The only thing kookier than the storylines these movies boast are the talents that often bring them to life. Wayne’s World director Penelope Spheeris last directed the 2012 flick The Real St. Nick. Wallace Shawn has appeared in Karroll’s Christmas and Christmas at Cartwright’s. Summer Glau filled time between Alphas and Arrow with Help for the Holidays. […]

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Peter Pan

As a young child, I loved a strange range of movies, from Pretty Woman to Dirty Dancing, Fern Gully to The Little Mermaid, The Thornbirds to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. My wide, mixed up taste was bred from relatively lax familial observations of my watching habits (most of my consumption happened in front of our living room television, a room placed squarely in the middle of our long house, with occasional trips to the single screen theater in our small Vermont town, so I wasn’t really hiding anything). My parents didn’t seem to care too much about what I watched – although I do have a strong memory of going to see Summer of Sam with my parents as a teen, which included my aghast mother asking me at least ten times if I wanted to leave – and I didn’t really abuse the freedom. I just liked things. It’s probably why I still love rom-coms and musicals and overwrought dramas and, yes, Last Crusade (the best Indy, at least in my mind). It’s also why I love Peter Pan. More specifically, it’s why I love the Mary Martin-starring stage version of Peter Pan (incidentally, one that aired on NBC in 1960), and probably why I’ve consistently rejected other versions of the story (Hook may hold a nostalgic place in the hearts of the rest of my generation, but I never took to it). As a kid, I had a VHS copy of the Martin Peter Pan (essentially […]

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The Rocketeer

Here’s the thing that blew my mind about The Rocketeer: about two-thirds of the way into this movie, I couldn’t stop wondering how this movie wasn’t more of a respected classic instead of a “Hey, remember The Rocketeer?” kind of film. It had good characters, a cool story, it nailed the feel of 1940s serials. Man! And then I watched the last third. But we’ll get to that. For now, let’s talk about what the movie did right, like the cast. Let me begin by going on record as saying that I love Alan Arkin in basically everything he does. There’s just something about his performances that makes him feel like an old relative. Maybe it’s because, growing up, my parents loved The In-Laws, which was one of the few movies we actually owned, and they watched it pretty frequently. 1980s and 90s Jennifer Connelly was also excellent in just about anything she did, Paul Sorvino is a great mobster, Terry O’Quinn (John Locke from Lost) hams it up as Howard Hughes, and lead Billy Campbell, who oddly didn’t do very much after this film, had some Harrison Ford-esque charm and swagger about him. Then there’s Timothy Dalton, who is a surprisingly great villain.

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Warner Bros.

Stanley Kubrick has never really been one of my favorite directors, and that’s probably no where more evident than in my preference of Eyes Wide Shut as the best of his films. In my defense I’d only seen five of Kubrick’s movies up until recently, but I also just really love the atmosphere, relationship commentary and black humor of the film. Warner Bros. has just released a new Blu-ray collection called Stanley Kubrick: The Masterpiece Collection, and it features eight of his films along with a handful of documentaries on his work and life including a brand new one, Kubrick Remembered. The eight films featured are his final eight (so his first five, Fear and Desire through Spartacus, are not included), but it serves well as a fantastic introduction to his acclaimed and eclectic career. The set also includes a hardcover book filled with thoughts and photos, but as with any collection it’s the movies that must speak for themselves.

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Adaptation Nic Cage

Our hero wakes up, yawns and stretches. It’s a typical day, and that’s a really boring introduction. Imagine it with an explosion instead. Thanks. This week on Reddit, a user asked for some dead giveaways that a screenplay was written by an amateur, and the hivemind (probably made up of angry script readers and finicky producers) didn’t fail. One such reader and producer offered a laundry list of bad habits, and we’ve invited him on for an open discussion about cringe-worthy mistakes that any aspiring writer can make (and avoid). Grab a pencil, realize you’re on a computer, and then take notes with that. 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 #78 Directly Or subscribe through iTunes

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published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+
published: 12.15.2014
B
published: 12.12.2014
D+


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