james woods

Criterion Files

David Cronenberg’s Videodrome is the Network of participatory media. Where Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky’s celebrated 1976 masterpiece rather accurately predicted televised sensationalism and infotainment, Videodrome’s ideas about media’s dissemination and our relationship with it continues to reveal its incredible foresight nearly thirty years after its initial release. Just as Network is now hardly satire, Videodrome seems less and less a work of science fiction. Sure, digital technology has brought many of Videodrome’s ideas into stark realization more so than the analog technology depicted throughout the film (a disconnect literalized by Criterion’s clever faux-Beta DVD packaging of the film), but the film’s many astute (and foreboding) observations about our evolving relationship to media technology is nothing short of profound.

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31 Days of Horror - October 2011

We continue our journey through a month of frightening, bloody and violent films. For more, check out our 31 Days of Horror homepage. Synopsis: “Long live the new flesh!” Good old fashioned body horror courtesy of the master of such things, David Cronenberg. Videodrome stars James Woods as Max Renn, the sleazy president of CIVIC TV, a Toronto-based TV station, “The One You Take to Bed With You”. The channel focuses on lower quality content, the kind of stuff we get after 1AM on Cinemax these days. Always on the hunt for something more extreme, more what he calls “tough”, Renn believes he’s found his station’s latest offering in the form of Videodrome, a faux snuff show he has come in possession of. But Renn soon believes he is involved in a global conspiracy when the truth about Videodrome and the people behind it begin to reveal themselves, and Renn’s already sick mind deteriorates into hallucinations and madness.

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Sitting at a formidable and weighty 98% on Rotten Tomatoes is legendary director Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, a biopic of Jake LaMotta, a 40s era boxer who was nicknamed “The Raging Bull” because of his short fuse and aggressive style in the ring. Michael Ritchie isn’t a legendary director. Despite the fact that he’s made movies like The Bad News Bears and Fletch, I’ve never even heard someone bring his name up in a conversation. And his attempt at a boxing movie, 1992’s Diggstown, is sitting at a paltry 54% on Rotten Tomatoes, derided and then forgotten by a cruel world unwilling to look past the ridiculous shirt and tie combinations James Woods wears in the film. This injustice will not stand.

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Writer-director Rod Lurie was in a bit of a lose-lose situation when it came to dealing with the hardcore Straw Dogs fans. Like all remakes, if Lurie deviated too much, many critics would ask, “Why call it Straw Dogs?” If the Nothing But the Truth director stayed too faithful, then he’d get ripped on for making a carbon copy. There’s a tough middle ground between those two sides, and Lurie made enough changes to try to find it. For one thing, unlike Sam Peckinpah, Rod Lurie doesn’t hate women. All jokes aside, the original film earned controversy, partly because Peckinpah’s depiction of his female lead was deemed misogynistic. That’s not much of a surprise — Peckinpah treated that character with such disgust, as he treated all the main characters in that film with disgust. His film was about David (played in this version by James Marsden) finding his inner animal, while Lurie opted for David finding his inner man. Here’s what Rod Lurie had to say about the commercial potential of a Straw Dogs remake, the fine line between David being manly and narcissistic, and Peckinpah’s depiction of Amy versus his own: Note: this interview contains spoilers.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr feels the weight of the fall movie season. It’s September, and while the kids are heading back to school, he’s playing hooky with Sarah Jessica Parker chick flicks and yet another not-quite-70s-video-nasty remake. Kevin is consoled by the release of Drive, however, because Albert Brooks as a crime boss makes him chuckle. And his love for 3D and Disney meet head-on in a collision of awesomeness.

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“EVERYONE HAS A BREAKING POINT,” Yeesh. There’s a good poster in here, but that unneeded and silly tagline doesn’t help matters much. But, really, how many taglines are genuinely good nowadays? Pretty much none. Screen Gems has just putout this lesser homage (via director Rod Lurie’s twitter feed) to the original 1971 Straw Dogs poster; something that’ll anger fans, but will probably work for the average filmgoers who have no idea what a Peckinpah is.

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Buddy Cianci is a winner, in or out of prison.

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