Features

Night Moves Movie

Superheroes rule the box office and the Guardians of the Galaxy have brought us the biggest film of the summer (which is about to dethrone Captain America to become the biggest film of the year). But talking about these big-budget behemoths with gigantic box office rewards (unless you’re the latest installment of the Expendables or Sin City brand) means talking about the same thing over and over again – a happy hour of strange creatures, diversified only by a couple comedies. Fortunately there’s a great mix of summer fare that kicked absolute ass on a very modest per-screen basis. One can’t exactly expect that a limited release in select big cities would fare as well if it expanded to thousands of theaters across the nation (averages generally shrink when/if they do), but it’s still great to see the “little guy” head into a release in a handful of theaters and earn a better average than the top summer film (Guardians had $23,118 on 4,080 screens). All of the following movies beat that average (save one that opened on only two screens), and offer everything from period dramas to modern comedy to films that took over a decade to capture. The men in tights, so to speak, may have won the box office, but I’m happy a selection of films like this still exists in this ever-mainstream movie world.

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Barton Fink

There’s only one, iron-clad, sure-fire, can’t-miss, hyphen-toting method to finishing a screenplay in only six weeks. Fortunately, we know the secret and are willing to share it with you (for less than $600). The trick is, in order for it to work, you have to follow the 1,008-step process exactly. If you think you’re up for the challenge, listen to the episode. We’ll also need all of your credit card information, your blood type and what you’d do for a Klondike Bar. Beyond sharing the trick to writing a script in a month and a half, we’ll answer a few screenwriting questions about the nature of negotiating a script fee and laugh about the supposed ban on jokes that Warners has set up for its superhero movies. 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 #70 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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The Gray Ghost Sweating Bullets

Why Watch? Batman has probably inspired more fan films than any other character, but I appreciate this short film from J.L. Topkis and Matt Landsman because it moves beyond the typical cosplay action sequence by channeling a Batman television show that channeled the Batman serials. They take their inspiration from a 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series (aka the best Batman TV show ever) where young Bruce Wayne is shown watching a show called The Gray Ghost and, in the present-day as Batman, has to find a copy of the show in order to solve a copycat crime. As a bonus, Adam West voices the actor who plays the Gray Ghost in the Animated Series episode. Here, Topkis and Landsman have imagined the show within a show as a real adventure series, crafting a live-action hero who leaps into young Bruce Wayne’s life at exactly the right moment (with some Sin City-style CGI to help). To be fair, The Gray Ghost: The Lost Reel (or maybe it’s called Sweating Bullets?) is pure nostalgia and design with a blustery script that follows a formula blazed almost a century ago. That doesn’t stop it from being a lot of fun — an excellent distraction that makes me wish they’d made a longer short. One warning, though. The acting and fighting in it is stiff like a 1930s serial would be. Not the look-how-accurate-we’re-being version of serial parody that we’re used to, but legitimately broad and direct. Get on board with the homage, and you’ll have a swell time.

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Ferris Buellers Day Off Rooney

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. It’s almost like it was fate. I got sick (for real) and had to take off work on the day that I watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for the very first time. I wasn’t kidney transplant sick, just obnoxious sinus infection/cold sick. So I could empathize with both Ferris’s attempts to “prove” his illness (mine includes a pretty hard to fake hacking cough) and Cameron’s actual illness. Until it disappears, I guess. Was he even sick or just that much of a sad sack? I still don’t know. That’s actually a good place to pick up: One of my few complaints of the film is, uh, I’m super worried about Cameron, and the movie never really comes back to him after he purposefully trashes his dad’s car then then accidentally trashes his dad’s car. Like, that dude was very clearly depressed and we’re left hanging on what happened when he has to explain that he destroyed his dad’s supercar. I’m just going to assume that his dad brutally murdered him and John Hughes felt it too tragic to mention. No sense in ruining an otherwise happy ending with a horrible case of filicide, right?

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The Fisher King

Back in the 1990s, Terry Gilliam provided a commentary track for The Fisher King, which has since gone out of print. Now, thanks to the magic of YouTube and MP3s and internet tubes, it’s possible to listen to this commentary track even if the disc itself is hard to come by. Not only does this commentary give an intimate look into one of Gilliam’s best, it also lives on in cyberspace to allow film nerds like us to learn more about the production. Due to differences in running time, you can’t simply synch all versions of the video with Gilliam’s commentary. For example, the Netflix version of The Fisher King runs 131 minutes instead of the unaltered 137-minute disc and theatrical presentation. Still, with the background soundtrack intact, you have a pretty good idea of where he is in his own timeline.

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Inside Out

Before we even laid eyes on Riley, the eleven-year-old animated star of Pixar’s Inside Out, we knew that she would be like us. At least, we knew that she would be more like us than some of the other stars of Pixar’s most beloved features, which tend to run towards the make-believe (monsters, talking toys), the fantastic (superheroes, talented vermin) and the slightly terrifying (cars). Pixar’s films aren’t typically concerned with stories centered on actual humans, even as they are packed with human emotions and experiences using charming surrogates (bugs, robots, fish), and the concept of Inside Out – a film that is entirely about the human condition, literally from the inside out — was a big, welcome change. The creative decision to cast a tween girl — a regular tween girl — as the star was also a major step forward for the animation house. Pixar films may not ascribe to the same “Princess” mentality of Disney’s animated outings (every girl is a princess, even if she’s not, and they all look eerily similar), but they tend to rely more heavily on male heroes (and, no, we’re not discounting Monsters, Inc.‘s Boo or Brave‘s Merida, but of fourteen Pixar films, thirteen of them are principally focused on their male leads, with women playing second fiddle in every film but Brave). Even better, the team at Pixar has spent a lot of their own marketing time pumping Inside Out up as being an important departure for them. Even the film’s official synopsis drives home both Riley’s relatability and her importance in […]

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Simpsons The Shinning

There’s another five days left in FXX’s great rerunning of every episode of The Simpsons in recorded history. Now, we don’t want to distract you — there’s still at least 100 hours to go, and shifting your eyes away from the TV for any reason could ruin that perfect butt-shaped indent that’s this close to being a permanent part of the couch — but just in case you need a break (a break that still involves The Simpsons, of course, we’re not monsters), here’s a momentary distraction. We all know the myriad of reasons why The Simpsons remains so popular. Revolutionize this, landmark that, longest-running yadda yadda yadda and so forth. But an exemplary trait of The Simpsons that tends to get short shrift (or shorter shrift, anyway), is its relationship with cinema. The Simpsons overflows with a love for film. Little homages to the classics. Grand spoofings of whatever’s current. Whole episodes based around Cape Fear or Mary Poppins. Throwaway puns on movie theater marquees. Story. Music. Cinematography. All will be parodied by this crudely-drawn family with wildly inaccurate skin color and haircuts that extend out of their face-skin.

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Stormtrooper Hits Head

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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Dust Short Film

Why Watch? A disheveled man follows a little girl and her mother as they walk down the street, he breaks into their home, and soon he’s writhing around in the little girls’ bed. This man is Alan Rickman, in case you weren’t already completely creeped out. In the short film Dust from Ben Ockrent and Jake Russell, the concept of what millions of people knowingly allow into their child’s bedroom is explored with an unnerving sense of simplicity. It’s almost pure atmosphere, punctuated only by a singular goal that maintains mystery simply because we may refuse to believe that we’re about to see what the film is promising to show us. It’s all body language and intent, which makes Rickman perfect casting not only because his ease of appearing terrifying, but also because he’s committed to even small roles like this one. Granted, it’s also a short film created solely to deliver a final moment, but Ockrent and Russell use a street-level, naturalistic shooting style that surrounds us with one, powerful emotion: dread. So remember, the next time you hear a weird thump in your house, it could be Alan Rickman snorting drugs in your daughter’s bedroom.

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The Limits of Control

As many successful American filmmakers who get their start in independent filmmaking quickly find themselves comfortable in Hollywood studios, Jim Jarmusch feels like the anachronism that the economics of filmmaking rarely find room for but the culture of cinema certainly needs. After making the No Wave-era Permanent Vacation on the seemingly post-apocalyptic landscape of a crumbling late-70s New York, Jarmusch made waves at the then-young Sundance film festival with Stranger Than Paradise, a bare bones indie that exhibited the director’s penchant for deliberate pacing, wry humor, an insistent soundtrack and a canted examination of Americana. Jarmusch’s productions are few and far between, partly due to the fact that he is ever in want of funding and seeks final cut on all his films. The process may be difficult, but it’s worth it: thirty years after Paradise, Jarmusch crafted Only Lovers Left Alive (recently released on disc and digital), a film that surprised me as both a sideways look at high-cult consumption and one of the most genuinely romantic films of this year. It is, in short, well worth the seven years of frustration that it took to get the film made and into theaters. It’s hard to imagine the same film coming from a filmmaker willing to touch studio funding. And it’s an intoxicating glimpse of what could be if more independent filmmakers were as unimpressed by studio dollars as Jarmusch. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a Son of Lee Marvin.

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Spider-Man 3

If you’ve been on the internet for more than a few minutes, then you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of the movies that everyone hates. They’re movies that are legendary in their awfulness, ruined people’s childhoods, whatever. And then those movies get sequels and people go bananas wondering who’s greenlighting these things. The answer, of course, is the same people complaining loudest about them. They’re doing it with their wallets.

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An iced coffee, a trumpeted rendition of a magical tune, and the man from the White Lodge. David Lynch has now transformed the ephemeral absurdity of the ice bucket challenge into physical absurdity. It’s enough to make you wonder why thousands of people have made videos of themselves being doused in freezing water. Think about how truly strange that is for a moment. Like we were all hypnotized, allowed by society to be socially bizarre for a good cause. The two funniest moments are when Lynch says, “I’m taking the challenge” so sweetly (we don’t even have to ask which challenge he’s talking about), and when he says, “The second bucket…” so casually after his mid-musical, caffeinated sloshing. Perfect comic timing. Of course, both laugh lines are due in large part to Lynch now being a fantastically adorable old man. Life just keeps staying weird. Source: The Film Stage

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Pirates of the Caribbean

As I tend to watch movies for a living, periodically I am faced with potential career choices that might be more lucrative for me. A stint aboard a space mining freighter for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation is a bit too futuristic for me, and I’ve missed the boat for enrolling in med school or law school. However, there seems to be one way to make money that doesn’t seem to take any formal schooling: treasure hunting. Of course, before I kiss my wife and kids good-bye and embark on a whirlwind global journey to get rich off of other people’s plundering, I had to look into this career choice a bit. I started by thinking: Where can I dig up a buried pirate’s treasure chest?

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Swimming With Sharks torture

Being a mentor is tough. You’re putting time into showing a kid the ropes, and what do you get out of it? According to the movies, maybe death. Or at least some non-lethal backstabbing will come about if you’re not lucky. It’s a wonder any of us bother to recruit interns, employees, apprentices, proteges and sidekicks when we know from watching a lot of movies that it’s not a good idea. We’re much better off just doing whatever work they’d have helped with alone and living a longer and more fruitful life. Never mind if we deserve the comeuppance. None of us believe we’re the bad guys, especially when we thought we were actually out for our disciple’s best interest. In the new movie The November Man, it’s Pierce Brosnan who winds up targeted by his former pupil, played by Luke Bracey. The two are spies, Brosnan now retired — until he’s pulled back in for “one more mission,” of course. And in this mission he’s up against a younger fellow to whom he taught everything he knows. Actually, he probably kept at least one thing close to his chest. That’s something else we learn from the movies, that it’s good to hold back from teaching your protege everything, because you’ll need a secret weapon in case he or she comes back to bite the hand that fed. Additionally, the movies teach us seemingly everything we need to know to avoid being betrayed. But if they’re smart, they’re also keeping one thing […]

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Gandhi Movie

Yesterday, Scott Beggs discussed how the subject of war permeated throughout Richard Attenborough’s career both in front of and behind the camera, noting how anti-war themes ran through the former Royal Air Force flier’s directing debut in Oh! What a Lovely War to his Best Director win for Gandhi and beyond. But there’s another important aspect of Attenborough’s unique career that informed this consistent theme of pacifism: the actor/director often gravitated toward stories of activists determined to change the world and its asymmetrical relations of power. Attenborough rarely put himself in the position of liberator, but recognized and used his position of Western privilege to render the speech of others heard. Attenborough was a genteel Englishman who seemed positively aristocratic in his presentation and demeanor – his appearance made him look the part of someone who might have been quite comfortable in the role of colonizer a century ago – but he used this assumed authority as a platform for making the voices of the wronged and exploited accessible to the ears of the powerful. His career and biography make him seem in many ways a walking contradiction: Attenborough held several honorary titles of the British Empire, from Commander of the Order of the British Empire to Knight Bachelor, yet his career behind the camera is best known for chronicling the just dissolution of that empire and depicting the tragic folly of imperialism.

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Lucky Bastard Movie 2014

You may have heard NC-17 called the “rating of death” for the way it kills a movie’s commercial success. Is this true? As a producer of one of the handful of NC-17 films ever made, Lucky Bastard, I can tell you it’s like the guys on Jackass finding out what happens when you get kicked in the nuts: Yes, it hurts like hell. Does the spectacle itself attract attention? Maybe—but you’ve still been kicked in the nuts. Lucky Bastard is a thriller about an adult website that pairs average Joes with porn stars (there really are such sites). When one troubled young man fails to perform, he is driven by shame and humiliation to enact bloody revenge on the porn crew. For us, this was a great micro-budget premise that let us comment upon America’s obsessions with sex, violence and “humiliation entertainment.”For artistic reasons, we wanted the movie to be as raunchy and disturbing as possible. Mission accomplished! But when it came time to find a distributor, everybody balked. Although there’s no actual sex in the movie, we were told no sales agent would represent the movie, no distributor would buy the movie, no theater would show the movie — no, no, no. “How come?” we asked one sales agent. “Because this is pornography,” she said. “No, it’s not,” we said. “There’s nothing here you wouldn’t see on Cinemax at 11PM. And we’ve got a great plan to market it through churches.” End of meeting. So we had a bright […]

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Back to the Future Biff Pleasure Palace

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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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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