Magnolia

Frozen

By now you’ve likely already heard about the debacle surrounding a Frozen screening at a multiplex in Pinellas Park, Florida in which a house full of parents and children were subjected to “sexually explicit content.” After some family-friendly trailers followed by Get a Horse (Disney’s short attached to Frozen), some sensitive material reportedly graced the screen for two awkward minutes. One patron recalls shielding her son’s eyes but preventing him from being able to “get the sound down real good.” Patrons were given free tickets and an official apology by the Park Place Stadium 16. Sites across the web covering the incident seem to have all agreed that the sounds in question were from the NSFW trailer for Lars von Trier’s customarily controversial and much-covered new film Nymphomaniac, a rumor that apparently originated from a comment on MoshNews‘s coverage. But is it actually plausible that a multiplex owned by Regal Cinemas would “accidentally” show a shocking trailer for a limited release film that doesn’t even have a US opening date? While misplaced trailers, out-of-order reels, and showing a film on the wrong screen was commonplace in the stone age of projecting films on film, in the era of digital projection such a thing is pretty much impossible.

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Culture Warrior

In 2002, a shift occurred in the structure and thematic concerns that inform the style, characters, and narratives of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films. Anderson’s fourth film, Punch-Drunk Love, clocking in at only ninety-four minutes (exactly half the length of his previous Magnolia) seemed a necessary exercise in modesty for the ambitious auteur, a means of proving himself capable of telling a story that focuses on the lives of less than a half dozen characters in a running time that is far from daunting. This film seemed, at the time, to be a momentary departure. Certainly Anderson, after working Adam Sandler toward what will certainly remain the greatest performance of his career, would return to constructing complex labyrinths depicting the intertwining lives of many memorable characters. After all, Punch-Drunk Love only featured two members of Anderson’s signature ensemble (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Luis Guzman). But as There Will Be Blood indicated, Anderson intended no such return to Altmanesque mosaics, opting instead to dive even further into the impenetrable psychologies of enigmatic leading men, an interest that has almost inevitably led Anderson’s trajectory to The Master.

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Paul Thomas Anderson

By now, a large amount of people have been able to see The Master and to build a few sandcastles with Paul Thomas Anderson. The director has grown from a young man fascinated by the nondescript buildings with porn being shot inside to a formidable creator, exploring twists on religion and family. He’s got film fans in his palm, which makes every new project he releases an event movie. But he still remembers to wait until the coffee is poured. So here is a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a 70mm heavyweight.

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Before he gets his eye patch on for The Avengers this summer, Samuel L. Jackson is taking Luke Wilson on a bizarre killing spree. From director Chris Fischer, Meeting Evil tells the story of a man facing foreclosure and joblessness who helps out a man who comes to his house looking for some help with his car. That helpful hand pulls him into dangerous territory with a man capable of ending lives. Shockingly, it’s Jackson who plays the BAMF waving a gun around. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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The Film: Fight Club (1999) The Plot: Our nameless Narrator (Edward Norton) works for a major auto manufacturer, investigating fatal crashes caused by product defects and running cost-benefit analyses to decide whether it’d be more expensive to recall the deadly cars or to pony up settlements in future class-action lawsuits. Sound like an amoral, soul-murdering job to you? Our Narrator agrees and embarks on a fumbling quest for peace. He gets a hearty shove down the path toward enlightenment when a) his apartment full of “versatile solutions for modern living” mysteriously explodes, b) he strikes up a love/hate relationship with the morbid nihilist Marla (Helena Bonham Carter), and c) he joins forces with soap entrepenuer and terrorist mastermind Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) to found the Fight Club movement.

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Fresh off of making one audience member pass out and another one puke into a bucket at Sundance, V/H/S has found a home with Magnolia, and it’s a matched made in hellacious heaven. The horror flick is both an anthology, which seems to be a rising trend, and a found footage movie that has many critics claiming that it refreshes the genre considerably. It’s made up of vignettes from writer/director David Bruckner (The Signal), writer/director Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead), writing/directing team Radio Silence, actor/director Joe Swanberg (Autoerotic, The Zone), writer/director Ti West (House of the Devil, The Innkeepers), director Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die, You’re Next), writer Simon Barrett (A Horrible Way to Die, You’re Next), and writer Nicholas Tecosky. The story focuses on a team hired by a mystery person (or persons) to break into a broken down house to steal a rare VHS tape. Horror ensues. So it’s a found footage horror film with an interstitial device of people looking for found footage. Already off to a good start. This is another ear on the necklace of the You’re Next team of Wingard, Swanberg and Barrett who will see that film released in October of this year as well. Thank god that V/H/S will be seen outside of Sundance. These are the kinds of horror filmmakers that deserve to blow up big. Personally, I can’t wait for the inevitable George Lucas mash-up trailer, V/H/S 1138.

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Culture Warrior

Last week, as I watched Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber, I noticed that the trailers on the rental Blu-Ray were all of titles sharing space at the top of my queue: titles like Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins, Kim Ji-woon’s I Saw the Devil, and Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun. All, I quickly realized, had been released by the same studio, Magnet Releasing, whose label I recalled first noticing in front of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson. After some quick Internet searching, I quickly realized what I should have known initially, that Magnet was a subsidiary of indie distributor Magnolia Pictures. The practices of “indie” subsidiaries of studios has become commonplace. That majors like Universal and 20th Century Fox carry specialty labels Focus Features and Fox Searchlight which market to discerning audiences irrespective of whether or not the individual titles released are independently financed or studio-produced has become a defining practice for limited release titles and has, perhaps more than any other factor, obscured the meaning of the term “independent film” (Sony Pictures Classics, which only distributes existing films, is perhaps the only subsidiary arm of a major studio whose releases are actually independent of the system itself). This fact is simply one that has been accepted for quite some time in the narrative of small-scale American (or imported) filmmaking. Especially in the case of Fox Searchlight, whose opening banner distinguishes itself from the major in variation on name only, subsidiaries of the majors can hardly even be argued as “tricking” audiences into […]

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If you love martial arts, but haven’t gotten a chance to see Merantau yet, today is a day to rejoice. December 28th will also be a day to rejoice, because that’s the day that Magnolia will release the film on Blu-ray and DVD for consumption in your very own home. Merantau is a shining example of what an action film can be. The fight choreography is world class, and there’s an actual story and character development to keep things fresh when fists aren’t flying (which isn’t often). Read my review to get even more excited and mark your calendars. [Kung Fu Cinema]

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As I type up this week’s Blu-ray bonanza, I have a clear view of a beautiful mountain range that surrounds Park City, Utah. But I can’t let that distract me. Eyes on the prize.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we see how drunk we can get on Avatar, on the movies of the decade that were overlooked, and table wine.

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This week’s Culture Warrior is getting its bunker ready for Y2K.

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