Features

Paramount

Johnny Depp’s latest film, Mortdecai, looks like an absolute train wreck, and since Lionsgate has decided not to screen it for press we’ll all find out together this weekend if that initial assessment is valid. Well, some of you will find out — I’ll be skipping it because it looks like an absolute train wreck. Tim Burton also has a new film in theaters, and while it’s not quite wowing audiences it appears to be a step in the right direction after the disappointments of Dark Shadows and Alice in Wonderland. Depp’s career is a mixed bag of fantastic, awful and average films, and examples of each can be found in his eight collaborations with Burton. Most people tend to point to Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood as their best pairings, but I’m oddly partial to their 1999 gothic comedy, Sleepy Hollow. It’s one of Burton’s rare R-rated films and fully embraces the gory sensibilities of a story about a headless horseman. The movie is also quite funny thanks in large part to a lively and game performance from Depp. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for Tim Burton’s Sleep Hollow.

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Girls

Well, she did it. Hannah (Lena Dunham) actually made it to Iowa (whether or not she actually makes it at Iowa remains to be seen, but things are already not looking good). That we didn’t get to see Hannah and her well-meaning parents actually road trip from Brooklyn to Iowa City (approximate distance = 1,000 miles) is a minor quibble about a mostly good, exceedingly crisply directed episode (Dunham directed this one, in addition to co-writing it with right-hand gal Jenni Konner). Things have changed for Hannah in the, uh, well probably like 15 hours since she left Brooklyn. She’s got a new apartment (a nicely appointed and shockingly large Victorian spread, procured for $800 a month from an understandably flabbergasted realtor), a brain-expanding graduate student life to embark on (approximate number of times Hannah reminded people she was a graduate student in this episode = 429), a bike that’s just about to be stolen, and tons of brand new friends. Wait, did we say “friends”? Oh, we meant “people in her program who already think she’s a total moron.” Hannah’s first impression on the rest of the writers in her workshop isn’t a good one — partially because they all seem to be varying shades of stuck up, but mostly because Hannah’s ability to accept criticism and present herself as an actual human adult is at its bare minimum during this episode — and after being in Iowa for mere hours, she’s already vaguely threatening suicide. Never change, Hannah! (Wait, never mind, […]

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Moon Landing in 2001

Last week, Steven Soderbergh offered his own cut of 2001: A Space Odyssey in a much more complete fashion than he did with either Raiders of the Lost Ark or Psycho. He didn’t merely provide a navel-gazing soundtrack to a black-and-whitified version of Indy so that everyone could focus in on how Spielberg staged his scenes, or combine the two Psychos together so that everyone could focus in on how much cooler Anthony Perkins is than Vince Vaughn. Soderbergh’s cut of 2001 is the product of a complete vision for the movie (in as much as it can be without shooting new scenes or having access to any footage that didn’t make Kubrick’s cut). If aliens learn about human civilization through the internet, and they find this video without the accompanying text, they’ll think that it’s the “real” 2001. They’ll also wonder why our space program has moved backward in the past 14 years. But that’s not going to happen. The original is safe and sound, and no one should care what those aliens think. I gave my take on the cut (there’s a lot of value in it) and also offered some thoughts on the True Film subreddit where the response was robust — including several people who couldn’t believe he’d done it. The Kubrick fan club on Reddit was also disgusted, and I wouldn’t have thought it worth commenting on except 1) the viewpoint was more widespread than I’d assumed and 2) we also got a spec editorial from a writer castigating, in detail, Soderbergh for […]

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Sundance1

Don’t get caught out in the cold without the proper boots.

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Thief-Mann

Michael Mann‘s films are sexy, cool, gritty, slick, angry and sometimes neon. He’s a filmmaker who is often eager to teach us the true meaning of heartache, and plenty of 80s and 90s kids owe professional directing careers to his stylistic pathfinding. Not to mention everyone who loved Drive. He’s also a frustrating director because his output is relatively infrequent (11 movies in 34 years), yet he’s greatly consistent in the kinds of stories that he reaches for. Men, usually desperate, always driven, reaching for something far beyond themselves. Exploring that ground has yielded some truly excellent cinematic experiences and killer moments over the past three decades. So here’s a bit of free film school (for filmmakers and fans alike) from a man who likes playing with shadows.

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eternal_sunshine_of_the_spotless_mind

Now that we’ve all had some time to think about it, we’re going to explore the best movies of 2004 after dissecting our favorites from 2014. Pay extra special attention to the names of filmmakers, writers and actors that are shared between the years. What has stood the small test of time? What has survived by living in our memories or hiding out in our hearts? The answers will probably not surprise you or be in any way controversial. To undertake this epic task, we’ve brought on FSR associate editor Kate Erbland and freelance writer for Esquire and The Atlantic Alexeander Huls to round out a four player rodeo of film appreciation. Please feel free to join in by sending us your favorites through Twitter and email. You should follow Kate (@katerbland), Alexander (@alxhuls), the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. Please review us on iTunes Download Episode #83 Directly Or subscribe through iTunes

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summer04_spiderman

Everyone likes to cut corners, especially when it’s a job you’ve done a zillion times before. (I’ve tried re-submitting the same lists from a few months ago a bunch of times, but the editors keep noticing.) The same apparently applies to the music part of the movie-making business. It makes sense when you really think about it. 99% of viewers probably never even notice the music anyway. The whole point of movie music is to exist in the background, silently lurking, waiting for its chance to… wait, I’m confusing movie music with Jason Vorhees again. That’s been happening a lot lately. I probably need to see a doctor.

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Oscars

If you happen to live anywhere near Los Angeles, the collective buzz and groan you probably heard this morning was undoubtedly the sound of scads of potential Oscar nominees, their publicists, their families, their dog walkers, their kids, their agents, and whoever else could possibly be invested in their maybe-nominations rousing themselves at the crack of dawn to watch the live telecast that revealed who made the cut for this year’s Academy Awards nominations. Everyone is very sleepy and very confused, but at least we’re all in this together. As ever, this year’s nominations included, well, a lot of stuff, from snubs and surprises to shoo-ins and sure things, it’s a mostly good line-up with plenty to look forward to. (Did you miss the nomination list? We’ve got you.) But what did we learn from a twenty-or-so minute telecast? A whole lot!

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2001 A Space Odyssey

In 1642, Rembrandt revolutionized military company portraits with “The Night Watch.” It’s a gorgeous, sprawling masterwork that combines skill, scope and subject. It’s also difficult to overstate or understand its cultural impact, although the fact that it’s essentially the national painting of The Netherlands offers a solid starting point. The revolution part came from the addition of motion to a genre of portraits that typically displayed men of action standing perfectly still. They were very popular at the time — militia groups would pay to have them made (if you paid enough, your face might even be recognizable), but Rembrandt elevated the form with what is rightfully heralded as one of the greatest paintings ever created. What does it have to do with 2001: A Space Odyssey? Besides the elevation of popular art, massive scope and peerless skill, Steven Soderbergh just name-checked it while delivering his cut of Stanley Kubrick‘s space voyage in a blog post titled, “The Return of W. De Rijk.” In 1975, de Rijk dug a knife into the canvas of “The Night Watch,” requiring years of restoration work to fix it. Now, Soderbergh has also cut a masterpiece, and you can watch it with the speakers turned way up.

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Woody Allen

Apparently flying high on its very first pair of Golden Globe wins, thanks to original series Transparent, emerging television force Amazon has announced that it has hired on a sizable name to helm yet another new series: Woody Allen. The new project will mark the writer and director’s first journey to small-screen creation – though, in his early years, Allen did write for shows like Stanley and Candid Camera – and although the news that Allen is set to work in a new medium is interesting, it comes with a caveat. Namely, that Woody Allen has no idea what the hell his new show is going to be about.

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Selma

A renewed forehead slapping routine has hit the echo chamber of awards season watchdogs because Selma has, once again, come up short on the nomination front. This time it’s the short list for the Directors Guild, which looks 80% like photographs of the same man taken at different ages. It’s unfortunate, but regular people don’t care about these awards. They’re important as a barometer within the professional community, but  there’s no need for anyone outside of that to care. What regular people care about, is the Oscars, and it’s going to be a surreal scene on Thursday if Selma and, more specifically, Ava DuVernay are left off the nomination list. With ten slots, there’s almost no chance that Selma doesn’t get a Best Picture nomination, but the situation is far more difficult to predict when it comes to DuVernay’s inclusion. This isn’t like when The Dark Knight wasn’t nominated for best picture, where the Academy simply wasn’t in lock-step with a massively popular phenomenon. They aren’t, and shouldn’t be, beholden to raw popularity when it comes to making their decisions. It’s also not like when L.A. Confidential lost or when Fargo lost or any other time a deserving film didn’t get gold. Or when an art house favorite didn’t even get a nomination. This is a situation where a movie has deftly used history to speak to our present without picking up the sledge hammer. It’s culturally important and immediate for both extrinsic social and intrinsic artistic reasons, and because of that it doesn’t need validation from the […]

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Universal Pictures

In October 2012, Alex Cross was promoted by the full faith an effort of Summit Entertainment as a would-be hit. Before the film was even released, Double Crossed, another book in James Patterson’s detective series, had been greenlit to follow shortly after, making Alex Cross the inaugural entry in a franchise organized around Tyler Perry as the titular character. But Alex Cross grossed only $25 million against a modest $35 million budget, and was subject to blisteringly poor reviews that called out the film’s ineptitude and its miscasting of Perry. Eric Hynes of The Village Voice deemed Alex Cross “a strong candidate for the dumbest film of the year.” The highly visible critical and financial failure of the film effectively put to rest any plans to franchise the series. Filmmaker Rob Cohen’s helming of Alex Cross was labeled “inept,” and its poor performance effectively prevented its studio from its franchising goals. In some circumstances, such a rollout could seriously threaten the career of a director. Yet here we are, slightly over two years later, and Rob Cohen has another Hollywood film coming out in ten days, the Jennifer Lopez-starring thriller The Boy Next Door.

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The Avengers: Age of Ultron

If there’s one thing that early marketing for Avengers: Age of Ultron has made extremely clear, it’s that the latest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe is preoccupied and/or enamored with the Pinocchio mythos. Both currently available teasers — our first look from October and last night’s newly released extended teaser (would we really call these guys full trailers just yet?) — make use of the classic Disney tune “I’ve Got No Strings,” which appeared in their 1940 animated feature Pinocchio. (Barbra Streisand also covered the song one time, though we’re not sure that has anything to do with either Pinocchio or Avengers, but wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants?) Not content to simply use the song as a vague-ish allusion to main baddie Ultron breaking free from the apparent tyranny of being created by well, whoever (yes, it’s probably Iron Man, but we’ll get to that later), the first teaser actually featured the voice of Ultron (James Spader, because yes) reciting lyrics from the original song. Ultron had strings! But not anymore! But what the hell does that mean? And, more importantly, who is Geppetto in this scenario? (Also, who is Jiminy, because goodness knows that Marvel can work magic with unexpected animated animals?)

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The 6th Day

As you already know, 2015 is the year that Doc and Marty traveled to in Back to the Future Part II. You know this because it’s a great movie, you love rehydrated pizza, and because the internet will not let you forget it. The constant renewal, not just of the movie, but of the technology from its version of the future is understandable. Retro-futurism is fun, and it plays to a harmless brand of narcissism. It’s us they’re talking about. We get to marvel at how wrong they were, how goofy their predictions. As a comedy, BTTFII fits that bill completely. Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale weren’t doing serious prognostication — they were trying to make an audience in 1989 laugh, which is why most of their vision for 2015 is of 1989 on growth hormones. The color-burst clothing, the 19th incarnation of Jaws, Marty getting fired by, not one, but by every fax machine in the house. There’s a sense of familiarity there in the far-flung future (fax machines! What is this, Japan?!). It’s a type of future meant to comment on the present — in this case, the 1980s — so you get cosmetic changes like power laces, big ideas applied to commercial uses like the hoverboard, and the rare element like wearable tech that hits the mark. Still, the ultimate gag here is that BTTFII‘s 2015 looks like a Looney Tunes cartoon. Not every past vision for 2015 is the same. There aren’t a lot of movies set in […]

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gone girl blu

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Wetlands Helen (Carla Juri) has, among other things, a bug of rebellion up her ass, and she’s determined to explore it even if it kills here. A too-close shave eventually lands her in the hospital where doctors set about fixing her behind. While there she meets and falls for a male nurse who seems to understand and respect her peculiar interests, even after hearing her graphic re-tellings of past adventures. This German film is funny, sexy, gross and fascinating, sometimes all at the same time, and it’s probably the edgiest coming-of-age tale to hit screens since But I’m a Cheerleader back in ’99. Juri is mesmerizing as a ball of teenage hormones and creativity willing to try anything when it comes to exploring her own body. Toilet seat experiments, vegetable insertions and more are the name of the game, and director David Wnendt is more than happy to share it with us in all manner of graphic glory. It’s unavoidably crass at times, but it rarely feels sophomoric thanks in part to the film’s and Juri’s dedication to Helen’s sincerity and pain. The film is honestly unlike anything else you’ve seen, and I’m not just referring to the avocado plant growing out of Helen’s vagina. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Alternate artwork]

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Thief Movie

Continuing through our exploration of the first feature films of prominent directors, Cargill and I arrive at the debut outing of one of my absolute favorite filmmakers: Michael Mann. In 1981, Mann brought us a gritty, savvy techno noir that starred James Caan as cinema’s coolest Thief. From the growling single-mindedness of its protagonist to the sights and sounds of, respectively, stunning cinematography and a pulsing Tangerine Dream score, Thief is that rare first film that never misses a beat and solidifies a director’s style in an instant. Don’t rob yourself of the fun of listening to Junkfood Cinema this week. You should follow Brian (@Briguysalisbury), Cargill (@Massawyrm), and the show (@Junkfoodcinema). Download Episode #39 Directly

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Girls Iowa

The fourth season of HBO’s occasionally beloved and often controversial Girls has arrived, and with it comes the promise that maybe this go-round will actually feature those damn eponymous girls growing into actual women. The season picks up soon after the conclusion of last year’s run, with Hannah (Lena Dunham) bound for the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Jessa (Jemima Kirke) recovering from attempting to off her employer (hey, she asked for it), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) dealing with the fallout of maybekindasorta not graduating college and Marnie (Allison Williams) attempting to break into the apparently blossoming jazz brunch scene. These girls are certainly moving forward, but that doesn’t mean that the decisions that are pushing them are the best ones they could make — if that’s not the way of Girls, we don’t know what is. As ever, Rob Hunter and myself are here to recap the show for you, complete with well-meaning arguments, heady banter and a deep concern for, well, just about everyone. This is your fourth season of Girls, and it’s going to Iowa, whether you like it or not.

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College Football Playoff

There are no movies coming out tonight. There are no major TV premieres this evening. The most likely thing that will be on TV screens around you will be the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship between the Oregon Ducks and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Even if you’re not a big football fan, chances are that you’ll get roped into watching by someone who is. I expect my Twitter feed to be full of movie loving friends who have been reluctantly tossed into the fray of potato chips, buffalo wings and football on television. And not to mention all those people who will end up watching the game for the premiere of the full Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer that’s debuting during the game. How will you survive this night? As someone whose heart is full for both movies and football (such a thing is possible), I am here to help you with a special mailbag-style Q&A session. 

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MYSTIC RIVER commentary

Clint Eastwood‘s latest film, American Sniper, opens wide this week on its way to some possible (and probable) Oscar nominations, and while I haven’t seen it yet I hope it’s a return to quality filmmaking. It’s been some time since he’s directed a truly engrossing and entertaining film, and one of his last was 2003’s Mystic River. The film, adapted from Dennis Lehane’s bestselling novel, is a Boston-set crime story involving three men who were once childhood friends. It’s a tale of loss, revenge and secret pains, and a major part of its dramatic effect is due to the three leads. Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins deliver stand-out performances, and it’s the latter two who recorded a commentary track for the film. Eastwood doesn’t appear all that interested in the idea of commentaries judging by his numerous home video releases. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River.

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Duke of Burgundy

Five years ago, Rob, Neil and I were dreading the time of year when moss grows on theater screens, and I suggested that January wasn’t all bad. That everyone had bought into the assumption that the month was a dumping ground even though there were good movies that came out after Christmas. That we’d all been hypnotized by a narrative that felt right unless you pushed on it. Neil told me to prove it, so Rob and I set out to. We also told Neil he should try to eat 50 chicken nuggets while watching Super Size Me, and he did. These were different times. However, the list that Rob and I made of 12 “great” movies released in January really only served to prove what we all know in our hearts: this month is awful. It wasn’t always awful, and it might not always be awful, but it’s been awful for a considerable amount of time — another victim of risk-averse studios happy to keep things exactly as they are. When great movies do sneak through (and we admittedly had to mute the meaning of “great” for our list), it’s either a fluke or it happened so long ago that it doesn’t tell us anything culturally about how movie distribution treats the thin months after holiday gorging in the 21st century. The thinking is not complicated. People don’t want to spend money in January because they spent so much of it in November and December, so they don’t go to […]

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published: 01.26.2015
B-, C-
published: 01.26.2015
A-
published: 01.26.2015
B


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