In a Better World

singing ringing tree

After all the thrill and adventure of The Desolation of Smaug, you’re going to wish there was more to watch. Well, there is, only it’s not necessarily more of The Desolation of Smaug (not until the extended editions on video, anyway). Instead, it’s other movies that I’ve selected as necessary viewing for those who’ve seen the new Hobbit movie. It doesn’t matter if you liked Smaug or not, because many of these titles are preferred predecessors and alternatives, anyway. Others consist of early movies starring prominent members of the cast or just movies that I was personally reminded of and have now made the excuse to share. From the very well known to the very obscure, the long and the short, there’s bound to be at least one title here for you to enjoy in however much time you have leftover following another lengthy trip to Middle-earth with Peter Jackson. This weekend’s list includes 13 titles, one for each of the 13 dwarves in the movie — though not every selection is necessarily tied to a dwarf. That was just my idea of being clever, plus the fact that such a long movie with a lot going on naturally got me thinking of more movies than usual. Check out my recommendations below and share any others you believe are relevant to mention. There are plot SPOILERS for Smaug after the jump, of course, since many of these picks are relevant to various parts of the movie.

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This Week in DVD

Welcome back to our weekly look at new DVD releases coming to a virtual shelf near you! Lots of good stuff this week worth a rental at least and possibly a buy depending on your tastes. My own interests have marked five titles as Buys including two TV shows. Merrill Barr may suspect I’m doing so strictly to spite his recent bout of ridiculousness where he claimed TV shows on DVD are pointless, but I’m not. They’re just damn good shows. This week’s releases include In a Better World, Wrecked, Norwegian Ninja, True Adolescents, The Perfect Host, and more. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. If a Tree Falls: The Story of the Earth Liberation Front In 2005 federal and state law enforcement agents across the country conducted simultaneous arrests of past and current members of the Earth Liberation Front. The men and women were charged with a series of arsons that had occurred throughout the Pacific Northwest over the previous decade. This insightful and balanced documentary explores the case from both sides with a focus on one of the defendants, Daniel McGowan. There’s no question of guilt or innocence, but instead it’s the charge of terrorism they face that fuels the debate. Should these fires (in which not a single person was killed or injured) be comparable to 9/11 or the Oklahoma City federal building bombing? It’s thought provoking and challenging, and proves that there aren’t always easy answers when […]

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Revenge films are a genre unto themselves and usually fit a very specific mold. They’re usually meant to be both entertaining and cathartic, but there’s rarely any serious questions asked as to the moral state of the actions playing out before us. Director Susanne Bier’s Academy Award winning film, In a Better World, sets out to do just that. The film follows two stories… two boys deal with a schoolyard bully but their efforts get out of hand, and a doctor who’s life mission is to heal the sick and wounded finds his ideals questioned when faced with pure evil. It’s a suspenseful and engaging experience, and it offers no easy answers. In a Better World hits DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow, and we have a copy of the combo pack to give away to one lucky reader. How can you win? Simple… think of a really bad movie, and tell us why the world would be better off if the damn thing had never been made.

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Susanne Bier‘s In a Better World made me, for the very first time, question my enjoyment of kids beating the hell out of each other on film. As someone that takes my fandom of kids kicking ass on film quite seriously, Bier stumped me. In a Better World is a film about violence, and the effects that it has. One of the two story-lines involves children, very nerd-like feeble children, striking back. Most of you dear readers would most likely sympathize with these kids, like I did, but they end up going to the extremes that make you question their choices. Bier is a director that is known for exploring the extreme sides of humanity, and she continues that trend in a poignant and unique manner with In A Better World. I spoke to Bier at SXSW where we discussed — starting with some small talk, of course — the grey areas of the film, the story’s structure, and finding realism in script and performance:

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The Reject Report

It ain’t Easter, right? It ain’t Easter. It ain’t white rabbit day. Don’t tell Universal that. They’re looking to bring in the golden egg with the seasonal Hop, and there’s a very good chance of that happening. Duncan Jones’s second film, Source Code, and the new horror film from the guys who brought us Saw – thanks, guys to be named later – may have something to say about that, but whatever that is will probably fall on deaf bunny ears. See what I did there? Well, see some more this week with the Reject Report the hollow chocolate bunny edition.

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Editor’s Note: This article will be updated in real time as the winners come in during the Academy Awards broadcast. Please join us for our Live-Blog tonight (because we ask nicely), and while you wait for the winners, check out our Oscar Week Series, where you will find breakdowns and predictions for all of the major categories. Tonight’s the night! You find out if you will take top prize in your office pool, and, you know, you’ll get to see which fantastic films are most celebrated with little naked statues of gold. If you love the Oscars, hate them, or pretend to hate them while sitting riveted to the broadcast, one thing is clear: tonight is a night to celebrate the best in filmmaking. We love movies. So do you. Tonight we can all celebrate our favorites of 2010 even if they don’t win and even if they weren’t nominated. As for those in the running, they are all beautiful works of art, they’re all winners tonight, they went out on the field and gave 110%…and…yeah, yeah, yeah. Let’s get to the winning, right? And the Oscar goes to…

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This article is part of our Oscar Week Series, where you will find breakdowns and predictions for all of the major categories. As you may know, Robert Ebert is promising $100,000 to anyone who can predict every single Oscar win this year. Going 24 for 24 is an impressive feat, unless you have an ethically questionable friend that works at PricewaterhouseCoopers. But, if you have that, why would you be wasting your time on a measly $100,000? Exactly. I don’t have that friend, but I have a graphing calculator and a lot of free time, so I came up with the predictions that I’ll be submitting to Ebert’s contest. I’d better not get a subscription to Red Book or something  for sharing my email information with him. Check out who I think will win the awards on Sunday (written in bold), tell me why I’m dead wrong, and put your money where your mouth is by entering the contest yourself.

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At the end of the 90s, famous Oscar show writer and Celebrity Fit Club contestant Bruce Vilanch claimed that, “Generally with the Oscars…there isn’t much you can do until the nominations are announced. Then you know what kind of year you’re dealing with – what’s been overlooked, what the issues are.” He was talking about preparing to write the show, but it applies to everyone from the directors, producers and stars on down to the fans. It’s fun to guess around the water cooler (your office still has a water cooler?), but until now, it’s all been speculation. Thankfully, almost all that speculation has been spot on, so we can all continue our conversations about whether Black Swan will beat The Social Network for Best Picture. Whether Natalie Portman has any true competition for Best Actress. Whether, most importantly of all, Colleen Atwood will beat Mary Zophres for Best Costume Design. Here they are. The 2011 Academy Award nominees:

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I love the Golden Globes despite never wanting to watch them. They are irrelevant in a way that’s completely freeing – meaning that the host can get drunk, the honorees can get drunk, and a lot of yelling can take place during the celebration. I imagine it’s a lot like what the Oscars used to be before they were ever televised. Don’t get me wrong. For the winners, it’s an auspicious occasion. It’s one more group (a diverse one at that) honoring great work done. For movie fans though, the broadcast is pure spectacle, and as someone who has stood next to Foreign Press members asking about what type of underwear Daniel Radcliffe wears, it’s also difficult to take the night all that seriously. Here in the sober light of day, are the winners. Feel free to speculate as to what this means for the Oscars.

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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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