Features

ChanelPreston.com

Outside of Comic-Con, there isn’t much happening in the movie world. Oh wait, there’s that 50 Shades of Grey trailer that was released this week in an attempt to bring balance to the force of nerd movie goodness. This is a different kind of nerdy, as we’ve found out over the course of tracking the movie’s development. It involves whips, chains and plenty of suppressed emotions from your mom’s neighborhood book club. It’s something that plenty of us around here aren’t really into — at least that anyone in the office is willing to admit — the world of BDSM. With that in mind, we might not be the right people to dissect the mix of pain and pleasure that make E.L. James’ book such a sensation. In order to fully understand the first trailer for Sam Taylor-Johnson’s upcoming film adaptation, we asked fetish porn performer Chanel Preston to answer a few questions about the trailer, the book and even her thoughts on the Beyonce song. We wanted an expert opinion on the tale of Christian Grey and his riding crop, and that’s exactly what we got…

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Michael Giacchino

Coming up with song titles for a score or soundtrack can be a tricky business. The music for a film is usually released before the film itself to get audiences excited, but if the track listing reads like a spoiler list for what happens in the film, the music can end up being more upsetting than enticing. Other times the titles that make up a film score can be boring and forgettable (even if the music is not). However composer Michael Giacchino has taken a different approach by making his track titles stand out by giving them funny (even pun-y) titles.

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The Legend of Billie Jean

There is more to the ‘80s than time travel, fantastical adventures, and teenage angst with a happy ending, but it wouldn’t seem like that with the narrow tack nostalgia has taken. The era has been whittled down to a list of mainstream musts and little else. Sometimes other films get remembered for a fleeting instant, especially if an anniversary is nigh, but generally it’s a momentary vacation before the return to the typical rushes about forgotten scenes, wacky trivia, or new pricey figurines. After years of near-obsolescence, The Legend of Billie Jean finally returned to shelves with a Blu-ray release this week, reminding us that there are other great ‘80s films out there we can be talking about. Some are probably better off forgotten, like Prayer of the Rollerboys, which I was ashamed to revisit when my age got into the double digits. But there are others worth the revisitation.

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Comic-Con Hall H

This year marks my fourth visit to the San Diego Comic-Con. If I’ve made one rule for the convention, it’s this: stay away from Hall H. The line is long, generally smelly, and often unpleasant. Over the years the wait has become worse and worse. People just don’t wait for hours, they wait overnight. There’s an infinite amount of great stuff at Comic-Con and in San Diego, so why spend one’s time waiting in line? Most of these panels, including the teasers and the often awkward Q & As, wind up online anyway. Plus, most people live tweet the juiciest details from these panels. There’s not much to miss. There’s plenty of reasons not to go to Hall H, but there’s an argument to be made that the wait is worth it. However, before you can have your head explode from too much cool, you have to survive that never-ending line. Since nobody from FSR is going this year to do all that waiting, as we’ll be too busy giving you plenty of awesome coverage, we asked some of the Movie blogosphere’s finest on how they get through a night of waiting.

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Superman 4

Often great movies come with great commentary tracks. Few things beat listening to filmmakers of masterpieces deconstruct their own films, offering insight into the genius that went into the process. However, some of the worst movies make spectacular commentaries as well. These commentaries give us a look into the delusional process of how an attempt to make fine art turned into some of the worst films in the history of time. Back in 1987, Christopher Reeve convinced Warner Bros. to help him revitalize the Superman franchise from the disappointing third film. He also wanted to bring a level of social responsibility by addressing the nuclear arms race at the height of the Cold War. The result was Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, a bargain-basement sequel that effectively killed the franchise for almost 20 years. In 2006, co-writer Mark Rosenthal recorded a commentary about the production of the film which is included in the Superman Motion Picture Anthology Blu-ray box set. Now, we get a look into the madness and some reasons why the final product was so terrible.

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Sons of Anarchy

Spin-offs have been a part of television since the very beginning. These include not just those series that branched off from popular shows focusing on a favorite supporting character but also those that continued following the leads. The latter could be thought of as TV show sequels, like Archie Bunker’s Place. Prequels, however, have not been as big a part of television tradition. There were Saturday morning cartoons offering origins of live-action TV characters like Alf and the Muppets, as well as some jumping onto the “__ Babies” concept for classic animated series like Scooby-Doo and The Flintstones. Around the same time, ’80s drama Dallas got a legitimate prequel, but it was in the form of a TV movie. Outside of shows that were prequels to movies — a current trend in and of itself that has its roots in series like Freddy’s Nightmares (some of its episodes, anyway) and Young Indiana Jones Chronicles — the earliest American live-action spin-off of a live-action series to go backward in focus was probably Young Hercules, in which none other than Ryan Gosling portrayed the teenage version of Kevin Sorbo’s legendary hero for 50 episodes between 1998 and 1999. Unsurprisingly,  the Star Trek franchise eventually got into prequel territory with Enterprise. Later, another sci-fi series, Battlestar Galactica, tried it with the unsuccessful Caprica. 

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James Gray and Joaquin Phoenix Making The Immigrant

James Gray seems like an anachronism. Between visually noisy blockbusters and indies that display a greater interest in bending narrative conventions rather than mastering them, his adherence to a more classical form of storytelling feels out-of-touch with contemporary filmmaking practice. His evident influences and forerunners include Robert Bresson, Roberto Rossellini and Francis Ford Coppola, and his cinematic relationship to New York City feels indebted to Sidney Lumet yet remains unmistakably his own. Gray doesn’t use other filmmakers’ work as a Tarantino-esque palette for diversion, despite his shared affinity for crime drama, that signature ’90s indie genre staple (Gray’s first feature was a 1994 gangster film starring Tim Roth – that’d be Little Odessa, not Pulp Fiction). Gray’s narratives are classical and familiar, but they’re never derivative or postmodern. The filmmaker instead uses cinema’s history as a tool to master storytelling, character development, mood and setting as a form of practice, and he realizes his personality as a filmmaker through the life he knows outside of filmmaking, principally as the Brighton Beach-raised grandson of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. If his standalone work feels anachronistic, that’s exactly why his work is essential and urgent – a reminder of what filmmaking can be beyond formal gimmickry and narrative subversion. He is the rare example of a filmmaker whose primary referent is not cinema itself. And with his latest, The Immigrant (now available on Netflix Instant), Gray has quietly released what might turn out to be the best film this year. It’s a small step for a filmmaker whose unassuming […]

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Robin Wright in The Congress

Stardom is a fundamentally contradictory experience for audiences. On the one hand, we can feel like we know a star intimately as a human being, despite the many roles that they play and despite the fact that they do not know us. We carry our past knowledge of the star onto each new project. And every time a star is captured by a camera, a brief record of them is made, in a moment solidified for a seeming eternity. Marlene Dietrich may be long deceased, but in revisiting any close-up fashioned from Josef von Sternberg’s films, she can feel as immediate to us as she was to the cameras eighty years ago. On the other hand, a star is always both more and less than a human being. Stars are the foundation for an industry of magazines, brand names readily available for peddling products, personalities to be mimicked, fashion icons to aspire to, and economic conditions for a film’s making and marketing. We can experience fleeting moments of intimacy with a star image, but the industry that makes stardom possible continually alienates us from a polished, selectively represented human being before us. It is through this dual capacity of stardom that stars continue to exist well after the physical lives of the people who embodied them. These inherent tensions between personhood and media are explored in great depth in Ari Folman’s new film The Congress, a film that uses the strange condition of stardom and the technological advancements of the current […]

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TMNT Recycle Dudes

Rebooting a franchise can mean a lot of changes to a beloved film property, and that tends to inspire everything from angry Tweets to petitions and boycotts. Just recall all the complaints about the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie at various stages of both rumor and actual production. Fans are wary of there being too many alterations to their favorite heroes in a half shell, and they weren’t having any of that alleged alien race nonsense. But you know what would really have put pitchforks in their hands aimed at the throat of producer Michael Bay? The lack of a TMNT-centric rap song on the soundtrack. Fortunately, the upcoming movie does have one of those. We can all finally rest easy with this news. The tune this time is titled “Shell Shocked” and it’s performed by Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J and Ty Dolla $ign with material from Brian Tyler’s score for the film as the melody. You’ll be able to hear it during the end credits of the movie, but you can also download it now via iTunes. Reportedly everyone associated with the song is a huge TMNT fan, and that has nothing to do with publicity spin whatsoever, I’m sure. Wouldn’t want any fans criticizing the idea of a track in the movie being made by people just in it for the cash. After all, how would we otherwise know if one of the rappers wouldn’t have given a damn about the turtles originating from space? Disappointment could come — […]

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RADiUS-TWC

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Blue Ruin Dwight (Macon Blair) is a bit of a loner. He lives in his car, parked on the side of a road near a Delaware beach, and spends his days scrounging for food, collecting cans and reading. A gentle wake-up knock on his car window precedes a disturbing piece of news. The man who killed Dwight’s parents is being released from prison. Single-minded but far from focused, Dwight fills the gas tank, pops the car battery into place and makes a beeline straight into hell. The setup here is economical, and the rest of the film follows suit, but rather than be a negative that simplicity actually elevates the film above its bigger budgeted, higher profile cousins. A Hollywood version of this tale would complicate things with unnecessary subplots, excessive exposition and time spent highlighting just how bad the bad guy and his henchmen really are. Here we stick with Dwight throughout, and the result is one of the most intimate and affecting revenge films in years. My full review. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, deleted scenes, camera test]

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summermovieprediction_final

Welcome to the final week of our 2014 Summer Box-Office Challenge! We’ve been tallying points all summer long, and now it comes down to this. A strong man versus a smart woman. As a reminder, at the end of the contest — next Monday, July the 28th — the three top point-earners will each win a Blu-ray/DVD prize pack! First place will win ten (10) Blu-ray/DVD titles that were released throughout the summer, second place wins five (5) and third place wins two (2). As we’ve already seen the score can shift noticeably week to week, and with one week left that means anyone within nine points of the top three spots still has a chance of winning. All of the still eligible players are listed below the break. Now let’s look at this past weekend’s results! Dawn of the Planet of the Apes held onto #1 bringing in another $36.3 million. That’s pretty much an exact 50% drop from opening weekend and a great hold for the critically acclaimed film. Our bonus question resulted in far fewer of you guessing right as Mood Indigo‘s per theater average ($13k) beat out both Wish I Was Here ($7k) and I Origins ($7k). Keep reading to see the new player rankings and the ten who are still in the game.

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Moon Landing in 2001

There’s nothing like the Moon for cinema. It’s been a fascination for fiction from way before motion pictures were invented, but it’s had a very special place in the history of film. From the beginning, at least as early as 1896 when Georges Melies created a lunar-based dream for A Nightmare (watch it here), filmmakers have been portraying our planet’s natural satellite in all kinds of ways. One of the most famous movie images of all time is a silhouetted bicycle in front of a giant full moon, in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. Even one of the Hollywood studios incorporates a crescent moon in its logo. One of the reasons the Moon is so interesting for cinema is that for the majority of the art form it was still a relatively unknown thing. Then, 45 years ago today (or yesterday, depending on where you are in the world), man touched ground on its surface and the idea of a journey to the Moon was no longer science fiction. Well, that’s actually dependent on who you ask, as well. Immediately we had hints about the Moon landing being a hoax, or if not totally manufactured then involving some other secret situation — like Apollo 11 really being a mission to investigate crashed Transformers (watch that here). Even after we officially knew there were no Cat-Women on the Moon and that it wasn’t in fact made of cheese, films have still had fun imagining the lunar body for sci-fi and fantasy stories set in […]

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Fantasia 2014

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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Mickey Mouse in Plane Crazy

Flight is cool. It’s always been cool. Its sheer physical absurdity and majesty has inspired countless works of art. Look no further than the trio of Oscar-winning cartoons I featured back in April, all of them about birds. Animation is particularly adept at capturing the breathless drama of a creature shooting through the open air. That’s certainly part of why we are now facing a second DisneyToon Studios movie about sentient aircraft. Thanks to the impressive box office success of last year’s Planes, in the face of absolutely dismal reviews, this weekend brings us Planes: Fire and Rescue. The cast list includes not one, but three talking forklifts. That may very well be all that anyone needs to know about the film, and you will be forgiven if you don’t rush out to see it. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seize another opportunity to celebrate the long love affair that animators have had with airplanes. The 1920s were a pioneering decade for both cartoons and aeronautics. In 1927, Charles Lindbergh made the first solo transatlantic flight, landing his “Spirit of St. Louis” in Paris on the evening of March 21st. His biggest fan? Mickey Mouse. America’s favorite rodent wouldn’t make his debut until November of 1928 in the enormously significant and eternally charming Steamboat Willie. Yet the first Mickey short produced was actually Plane Crazy, something of a Lindbergh fan film.

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Jason Takes Manhattan

“The big city? Cops? Shootings? Car chases? That kind of thing?” “Well, no. No shooting stuff. It’s more like songs and dances.” – Exchange between Dabney Coleman and Kermit the Frog, The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) “It’s like this. We live in claustrophobia, the land of steel and concrete. Trapped by dark waters. There is no escape. Nor do we want it. We’ve come to thrive on it and each other. You can’t get the adrenaline pumpin’ without the terror, good people. I love this town.” – Radio DJ, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) “When people see New York in the movies, they want to come here.” – Mayor Ed Koch, The New York Times (1985) Two movies released in the 1980s used the phrase “Take(s) Manhattan” in their title. The first was the latest G-rated feature starring lovable puppet characters from a popular children’s variety show. The second was the latest R-rated installment of a slasher horror franchise. Released almost exactly five years apart, they each saw their familiar — iconic even — characters visit New York City, and with slightly varying results they each made light of the rotting of the Big Apple at the time, creating pieces of virtual tourism that either dismissed or embraced the fact that the place was turning into a terrifying cesspool that no outsider should dare enter.

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Jerusalem Film Festival 2014

For the last week, I’ve been sitting in a darkened room watching movies with 200 of my newest friends while people were dying in air strikes only a few dozen miles away. It’s silly, shameful really to think of it in those terms. But even recognizing how frivolous it is, there was still a lot more going on in those darkened rooms than mere escapist entertainment. The directors of the Jerusalem Film Festival made sure of that, creating a line up that — aside from its currently explosive context — allowed for moral challenges and thoughts to simmer inside the theater and out. The Israeli film experience differs greatly from the Hollywood experience. Far from candy colored cultural exportation, budget and facility restraints push the Israeli film community to use the visual medium mostly for pure expression, a way of contemplating the issues that face not only Israel, but the whole of the Middle East and also much of the world. And isn’t that one of the best reasons to pursue art in the first place? Art exists in large capacity – and certainly this experience demonstrates that cinema is one of Israel’s emerging art markets – to help a culture work through its problems. I saw quite a few films at the Jerusalem Film Festival, though sadly only a fraction of what was playing. For the most part, I focused on the Israeli films, partly because it seems counterproductive to spend my time sweating to get to movies that are already scheduled to be released On Demand in less than a […]

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Terry Gilliam in Lost in La Mancha

The release of any Terry Gilliam film is a big deal. More so than any living filmmaker of lauded repute, Gilliam’s work has been unusually burdened by outsized circumstances that render it astonishing that he’s even accomplished the work he has, from Universal’s re-cutting of Brazil to his lead actor dying during the production of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus to his doomed “Don Quixote” project, documented in the film Lost in La Mancha. Not since Orson Welles (who famously pursued his own uncompleted Quixote film) has a respected filmmaker had such an endlessly difficult time bringing his ideas to screen. That makes the announcement of a late summer release date for Gilliam’s newest feature, The Zero Theorem, all the more remarkable. The film looks like prime Gilliam territory, with its dystopic representation of a certain future burdened by blinding consumerism and Kafka-esque bureaucracy reminiscent of the director’s most notorious battle for artistic autonomy, 1985’s Brazil. As notable as Gilliam’s work is for its visual inventiveness, its wry humor and its trenchant political themes, Gilliam’s career is just as famous for the unceasing uphill battle through which his inimitable filmmaking is achieved. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the only American member of Monty Python who is actually no longer American.

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We-Live-in-Public

Last week, National Geographic debuted a three-part documentary special called The ’90s: The Last Great Decade? Although it didn’t spend a lot of time on the rise of the web, the history of that period obviously noted some of the more significant moments in the early days of the Internet’s widespread popularity. There was the dot-com bubble, the breaking of the Clinton/Lewinski scandal on the Drudge Report, the first browser war, the screech of dialup and the reason Apple started naming products starting with a lower-case i. It was a great piece of nostalgia, reminding me that this month marks my own 20th anniversary of using the Internet — an occasion I know of because it coincided with a pre-college program I attended in the summer of 1994. Also last week, the New York Times posted a new Op-Doc by Brian Knappenberger called A Threat to Internet Freedom. The short film tackles the net neutrality issue in a brief yet concise five minutes, and there’s not a better director out there for this particular topic. Knappenberger continues to be the best documentary filmmaker when it comes to presenting histories, biographies and current events and debates of and related to the Internet. In fact, his two most recent features are both among the top 10 documentaries about the Internet. Those and the eight others are all from the past 13 years, none of them produced in the ’90s, and few of them even focus on subject matter pertaining to the net during the 20th century. The further we get from the dawn […]

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Worlds End End

People love a good twist ending. When it’s good, it’s The Sixth Sense. When it’s bad, it’s most of the Shyamalan films that followed. But now twists aren’t just shocking flips of plot that viewers don’t see coming. They’re also those moments where a feature defies one of Hollywood’s many conventions. These days, the courage of conviction rings sweeter than the slickly planned twist. It’s exhilarating to watch filmmakers follow their plan to the end (for good or bad), and it’s promising that they were allowed to do so and not curtailed by a system that wants things just so. (Consider the original plan for Heathers, which would’ve seen everyone die and get a happy ending in Prom Heaven.) Sometimes it’s as simple as fighting the rampant desire for a happy ending and letting characters be miserable or die, and other times it’s daring to not kill anyone at all. Every time I see the trailer for Sex Tape, I find myself hungry for the unexpected. I fear actually seeing the film because in my head, Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel spend half the movie trying to stop people from seeing their sex tape, and then they realize they’re actually closet exhibitionists and don’t care. Even if completely random and absurd, that would beat barreling toward a conclusion that’s obvious from the first trailer. In the meantime, I’ll have these films (and one television show) to sate my unexpected hunger. Beware, the ends of films will be discussed and therefore spoiled.

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Ouija

In my long-ish and varied history of attending childhood sleepovers (from birthday parties to random Saturday nights, hotly attended events to just hanging with my best friend), I somehow managed to avoid playing most of the creepy games that make up the “scary sleepover game” oeuvre. Most of them. I had to play once. It was horrible. It was Bloody Mary. I was ten. And it definitely instilled in me a vague but still life-long aversion to looking in mirrors in dark bathrooms. At the time, I definitely thought, this is a bad idea, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t participate. Guess what! It was a bad idea. Horror films that tap into that kind of stuff — that sort of personal connection — are usually the ones that scare us the very most, which is why I’m pretty excited that I never dabbled in Ouija board-playing, because Stiles White‘s upcoming Ouija (about a possibly murderous “spirit board”) could then have the power to send me screaming out into the night. As is, it just looks kind of scary to me (but if you played with a board as a kid, the film could effect you quite differently). But there sure are plenty of other scary sleepover games that could translate well enough to the big screen, leaving terrified teens in their wake. How many of these games have you played?

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