Fantasy

Today is the 91st birthday of a man who will live forever. Ray Bradbury had a profound effect on science fiction, on fantasy, on film, and on the future. Had he not become a writer, Bradbury would have been a magician, but in a lot of ways, he got to do both. Fortunately, some of his most iconic movies are available to stream right into your eyeballs using the wonders of technology (that Bradbury probably predicted). In case you want to discover the writer’s work or want to enjoy them all over again, here are five of those films and where to see them.

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With the entire original run of The Twilight Zone available to watch instantly, we’re partnering with Twitch Film to cover all of the show’s 156 episodes. Are you brave enough to watch them all with us? The Twilight Zone (Episode #47): “The Night of the Meek” (airdate 12/23/60) The Plot: An alcoholic department store Santa Claus (not played by Billy Bob Thornton) gets his wish when a mysterious bag full of everything lands at his feet. That’s right! Take a look at that original airdate, fans! It’s a Christmas episode! The Goods: Is it awesome that The Twilight Zone did a Christmas episode? Yes. The show traded in its aliens and magic contracts with Satan to deliver a classic television rite of passage. Every show does one, and this little sci-fi series that could is no exception. But of course, things are going to be a bit odd as snow falls in the Zone. Meet Henry Corwin (Art Carney). He’s a drunk. Instead of finding him at work, asking little boys and girls what they want for Christmas, you can find him at the local bar trying to snag one last plug of the hard stuff. He’s tough to root for, especially because he drags his inebriation in front of the children who beam with joy when they see the suit he wears and the figure it represents.

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Exclamation points! I love the fact that this trailer doesn’t start with Ryan Kwanten‘s character being normal and doing whatever his character does before diving into the fantasy. This trailer is all second act and context clues. In Knights of Badassdom, Kwanten plays a young man who needs an escape, so his friends (Peter Dinklage and Steve Zahn) kidnap him, strap some fake armor to his chest, and bring him to a LARPing (Live-Action Role Playing (let’s all pretend you needed that cleared up)) battle. It sounds like a lot of harmless fun. Until they summon a real demon who proceeds to rip out throats with her teeth.

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Why Watch? Because the most important thing is family. The less said about this short, the better. It’s clear when the little girl picks up the phone to speak with her father that something’s wrong, but writer/director Dick Maas isn’t quick to give the story’s secrets away. It resembles a Richard Matheson short story (but even mentioning its name might give away the twist here for fans familiar with his work), and it’s a strong execution of a keen, spooky idea. What does it cost? Just 5 minutes of your time. Check out Long Distance for yourself:

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With the entire original run of The Twilight Zone available to watch instantly, we’re partnering with Twitch Film to cover all of the show’s 156 episodes. Are you brave enough to watch them all with us? The Twilight Zone (Episode #30): “A Stop at Willoughby” (airdate 5/6/60) The Plot: A man seeks out a pastoral existence in a mysterious train stop as his home and job life crumble around him. The Goods: Gart Williams (James Daly) is waiting for a train. It matters where it will take him because it won’t be his home, but he’ll want desperately to live there. Williams rides this train back home every evening after a soul-sucking day of working in advertising (without all the whiskey breaks and adultery that we know existed because of Mad Men), and after a brief nap, starts waking up at the last stop on the route. Curiously, this last stop also seems to exist in 1888 instead of 1960. The stop’s name is Willoughby.

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With the entire original run of The Twilight Zone available to watch instantly, we’re partnering with Twitch Film to cover all of the show’s 156 episodes. Are you brave enough to watch them all with us? The Twilight Zone (Episode #29): “Nightmare as a Child” (airdate 4/29/60) The Plot: A schoolteacher meets a little girl on the stairs that wants her to remember the worst moment of her childhood. The Goods: More than the easy nature of delivering a twist, The Twilight Zone is often about using science fiction and fantasy storytelling elements in order to play around with reality. This episode is one of the better examples of that goal being achieved through character, fear, and a question of where our minds end and the world begins.

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For Austin residents, The Alamo Drafthouse needs no introduction, I’m sure. For the uninitiated, they’re the movie-loving theater with the strict no talking/texting policy that made waves a little while back when the Intenet got a hold of their in-house PSA that humiliated an ex-customer who was ejected for texting by playing a stupid/obnoxious voicemail that she left after getting thrown out. And they also do other stuff. Not the least of which is put on Fantastic Fest, which is the biggest genre film festival in the United States. Whatever your genre flavor, whether it be horror, sci-fi, fantasy, action, or what have you, Fantastic Fest usually has something that will pique your interest, due to the fact that they bring movies in from all around the globe. In the past they’ve premiered big art films like There Will Be Blood, they’ve brought us cool gems from other lands like Troll Hunter, they’ve made us all aware of disgusting nonsense like The Human Centipede, all while mixing tons of other obscure/weird stuff in as well. Co-creator Tim League says of the festival, “Fantastic Fest is the high-point of my year.  Every year old friends return and strangers become friends. Fantastic Fest is my extended dysfunctional family; each of us completely obsessed by the wildest and weirdest films on earth.” Now doesn’t that sound like something you’d want to be a part of? Then I’d start planning my trip to the festival now.

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Here’s a fun fact: Prior to 2001′s releases of Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone, fantasy movies were frequently silly, low-budget shlockfests that actors only wanted to make so they could eat something other than whatever they scraped from under their fridge for another month. (For the record, I am told that this lifestyle — I like to call it Underfridging — is good for bolstering your immune system. On the other hand, high potential for scurvy. Your call.) And since the Harry Potter series has spanned eight films and employed every single actor in Britain at least once (twice in the case of Warwick Davis), you know there’s a treasure trove of painfully cheesy fantasy movies lurking in their collective resumes. Let’s take a look at some of them!

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With the entire original run of The Twilight Zone available to watch instantly, we’re partnering with Twitch Film to cover all of the show’s 156 episodes. Are you brave enough to watch them all with us? The Twilight Zone (Episode #28): “A Nice Place to Visit” (airdate 4/15/60) The Plot: A violent man is killed in a violent way, and he ends up in a place that grants his every wish for the rest of eternity. What could be so terrible about that? The Goods: Rocky Valentine (Larry Blyden) shoots a man, robs a pawn shop, and feels the sting of lead shove itself into his body when the cops take him down. Not the most honorable way to go, but everything seems to work out for the best because Rocky wakes up in a beautiful place with his very own wish fulfillment assistant.

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Why Watch? Because we are the story. The beauty of movies (and any good narrative art) is that they can place us right in the middle of the action. We’re chasing down ancient idols, running from dinosaurs and breaking up international spy rings. This short explores that idea by making it a reality for the person who is in the theater maybe more than anyone – the person behind the projector. It’s a truth-blurring film that makes its effort in movies inside movies (and even offers a little behind the scenes information while the credits run). What does it cost? Just 8 minutes of your time. Check out The Secret Adventures of the Projectionist for yourself:

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With the entire original run of The Twilight Zone available to watch instantly, we’re partnering with Twitch Film to cover all 156 episodes. Are you brave enough to watch them all with us? The Twilight Zone Episode #6 – “Escape Clause” (airdate 11/06/59) The Plot: A man convinced he’s sick makes a deal with a pitchfork-less Devil for eternal life (with one important caveat). The Goods: There are some interesting ideas at work here embedded in a story that’s as old as first degree murder. Deals with the devil always come with a twist, and this one isn’t anything special, but the episode itself is a mess of Serling attempting comedy. The result is a cartoon of flat characters that takes too long to get to the chase (10 minutes of a 25-minute-long episode) and can’t spend enough time on the truly fascinating questions about living forever.

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There’s no real reason to even write an intro here. Chances are if you saw Super 8 already it made you strangely hungry for Reese’s Pieces. This story about an alien whose face was designed to look like Albert Einstein and Carl Sandburg gave birth to a pug (not a joke) is beyond iconic. It’s even literally iconic in the fact that its main image has become the symbol of Amblin entertainment. We may not have a trailer for Night Skies, but we’ve got one for E.T. If Poltergeist represented the dark side of suburban life, this represented the (incredibly frightening) lighter side.

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Why Watch? Because a lot can happen when you’re asleep. Yesterday’s short certainly borrowed from the pioneering artistic style of Georges Méliès, and they make a good double feature (considering they take under six minute to watch together). Méliès is most famous for A Trip to the Moon, but he made this ethereal short 6 years earlier, acting as director, producer, production designer, and editor. Considering that it’s over 100 years old, it’s pretty damned entertaining – even though it probably earned a “WTF” rating even back in the 19th century. His trippy genius comes to life here in its purest form – through a dream. Now just imagine what he could do with the technology of today. What does it cost? Just 1 minute of your time. Check out The Nightmare for yourself:

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In today’s contest of wills, we have 5 contestants all trying to mean mug as best as possible. Conan (Jason Momoa) cries out in battle, Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) attempts to pass a gallstone, Corin (Ron Perlman) unleashes his Planet of the Apes face, Marique (Rose McGowan) stuns with her facial tattoos, and Tamara (Rachel Nichols) didn’t get the memo that she needed to be scary. These character posters for Conan the Barbarian are actually pretty intense, showing off some solid costume and make-up design as well as the unnerving battle faces of some of its stars. Which one is the scariest?

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we talk with Troll Hunter writer/director Andre Ovredal, Prom screenwriter Katie Wech, and The Conspirator screenwriter James Solomon. Perhaps you’re starting to see a theme emerge. Plus, Dustin Rowles and Joanna Robinson from Pajiba enter the Movie News Pop Quiz ring, and both safely exit. Then, we talk about Doctor Who. Loosen up your tie and stay a while. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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The fact that a major studio made Your Highness is both reassuring and baffling. The commercial appeal is there, obviously, but this isn’t your standard comedic fare. David Gordon Green’s 80s fantasy throwback is filled with crudeness and audacity. This is a film with a child molesting puppet; isn’t that such a thing of genius which defines ambition? I believe so. A film like Your Highness is, as stated before, reassuring because we’re witnessing such talents as Green and co-writer/star Danny McBride getting to further explore their divisive sensibilities in a rather sizable studio film. Danny McBride didn’t just set out to make a parody or a satire, but a genuine adventure film that, which he admits, isn’t for everyone. Your Highness is not the pot comedy one expects, but a road movie about lovable and immature idiots. McBride’s Thadeous is a moron in all senses of the word, except an actual self-aware moron. There’s a charm to his baboon-like nature. Your Highness is almost a coming of age story, but about a grown, pot-smoking, and crude man. Here’s what Danny McBride had to say about getting a comedy with a large scope, not making a spoof, crafting lovable idiots, and the difficulty of practical effects:

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Zack Snyder’s return to (mostly) live action hits screens today, bringing to life the fetishistic dreams of many a teenage boy as a mostly female cast in anime-inspired garb storm through mind of the troubled Babydoll, battling dragons, orcs, and samurai. On paper it sounds pretty amazing: sexy young actresses, plenty of firearms, the directing of Zack Snyder, wild nightmare action sequences, and a minimum amount of leather inspired clothing. In small doses, say in trailers and commercial spots, the film looks amazing. Fast paced action, again the sexy ladies, and amazing, lush digital sets, brimming with fireballs and bullet hits. Then some slow motion, and some fast motion and some slow motion again. By now you’re probably starting to predict where I’m going. I said it’s amazing in small doses and in paper, but how is it stretched out to two hours?

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Junkfood Cinema

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; I am not Banksy. But like that ninja/superhero street artist, I appear from nowhere and deface your perfectly good internet walls with my tasteless taste in movies. I will eviscerate history’s most problem-laden cinematic missteps before circumventing any notions of a favorable reputation by singing the film’s dubious praises. To drive the proverbial nail into the coffin, and into your aorta, I will then pair the movie with an appropriate junk food selection to ruin your swimsuit season. South by Southwest is a film festival that carries with it a debauchery only outdone by the Mos Eisley-level of scum and villainy that is Fantastic Fest. With the daunting schedule of pounding beers, drinking lager in line for various films, and taking a break from running from venue to venue with an ice cold brew, it can be really hard to grant the same level of attention and diligence to one’s weekly features that one normally does. But luckily for me, the Ain’t It Cool News secret screening during SxSW provided the perfect fodder for this week’s column. This week’s snack: Dragonslayer.

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Junkfood Cinema

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; get your finger out of your ear. Listen, do you smell something? That’s the smell of cheesy movies served up weekly in an effort to dispel any rumors of my possessing even a modicum of taste. I will mercilessly prod and poke at all the movie’s soft spots, but then swaddle it in arguably undue praise and sing it sweet lullabies of adoration. As if this baby metaphor weren’t creepy enough, I will then spoon feed you a tasty, after-dinner treat inspired by the bad film before sending you outside to play and almost certainly vomit all over the swingset. This week’s snack: Krull

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Jeremy Renner. Famke Jannsen. Now Peter Stormare. The casting for Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is enough to send interest into the stratosphere. I also here Gemma Arterton can act one out of every three movies or so, so she’s ripe for this one. According to Deadline Växjö, Stormare will be joining the fantasy film as a sheriff with some ethical problems named Berringer. Like his bad-tasting-wine name suggests, he’ll be playing a bad guy. Is there anything more to say about that? Stormare, villain, done deal. The guy is terrifying, and for all the roles fans most likely recognize him for, one that still has yet to see US theaters or rental queues is Corridor where he barely says anything and still remains almost solely responsible for nerve-destroying fear. Of course this isn’t the first time Stormare has ventured into this territory. He played a gun-toting character in Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm back in 2005.

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