47 Ronin

This is a special edition of Short Starts, where we look at the past year of disappointing feature debuts from filmmakers who previously wowed us with their short films. Short films can be good calling cards, but they aren’t always the best proof that a filmmaker has the skills to immediately jump into a feature. Especially a big Hollywood production. In recent years, thanks to the combination of the Internet, social media and cheaper tools for making movies on a personal computer, we’ve seen some awesome short films go viral and then get the attention of studio execs and big time producers. The filmmakers, in only a few minutes of screen time, display a lot of talent and imagination and, most importantly, promise. But they’re often handed properties that are too much to handle even for experienced directors, as we saw with Neill Blomkamp’s assignment of Halo as a feature debut. Fortunately, that never happened and instead we got District 9, an extension of his popular short, Alive in Joburg. It’s fitting that Blomkamp disappointed with his sophomore effort (Elysium) in 2013, a year that overall was pretty dismal for directors transitioning from shorts to features. Terrible movies from people who had broken out with acclaimed shorts isn’t anything new. In the past we’ve seen Oscar nominees like Stephen Kessler and Christian E. Christiansen move “up” to Vegas Vacation and The Roommate, respectively. The past year was particularly heavy on the disappointing newcomers, though. 2013 even finished out with what’s possibly […]


disc 050713

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. The Telephone Book Alice is a young lady in the Big Apple whose libido is constantly on the lookout for the next arousing adventure, and she finds it when an obscene caller targets her for an erotic tongue-lashing. She becomes obsessed with finding the man behind the voice and sets out on a journey that brings her in contact with some truly eccentric characters and ultimately in touch with herself. This 1971 film was apparently thought lost for some time to the point that most people have probably never heard of it before. Vinegar Syndrome is still a very young label (this is only their seventh release), but they’ve more than proven their worth here by resurrecting it onto blu-ray. While described as an erotic cult classic I found the movie to actually be surprisingly funny too. Sarah Kennedy does her best “young Goldie Hawn” combining an adorable goofiness with a real sexiness, and the film as a whole is just the right kind of absurd. It’s a strange time-capsule back into the early seventies and manages to display a wit and intelligence unheard of in the softcore genre. [Blu-ray extras: Commentary, trailers, still gallery]


impossible log

I applauded composer Fernando Velázquez last year for his score for The Impossible, a film wrought with drama in which Velázquez wisely kept his music to the background rather than trying to influence the raw emotions on screen. But Velázquez’s latest project has audiences hearing a very different side of the composer – one of suspense and intrigue with his score for the Guillermo del Toro-produced Mama. Velázquez switches modes here, wasting little time bringing audiences into what del Toro described as a “fairytale gone wrong” with the first track, “The Car and the Radio” quickly putting you on the edge of your seat. Unlike his score for The Impossible, which drew audiences into the film slowly, Velázquez is at full tilt here, utilizing a full orchestra (and some ominous choral elements) which become a part of this world rather than simply keeping to the background of it.



Once upon a time… horror films knew how to consistently land their third act. The original Black Christmas, The Exorcist and John Carpenter’s The Thing build tension and escalate the scares without falling apart by the end, but you don’t even need to go back that far to find ones that get it right thanks to (relatively) recent movies like [REC], The Mist and The Innkeepers. But more than any other genre a lot of horror films from the last few years simply drop the ball before the credits roll. Andrés Muschietti‘s Mama continues that trend unfortunately, but truth be told its grip is pretty damn tenuous from the beginning. After Victoria and Lily’s father kills their mother and some co-workers he takes the girls on a drive that ends with a crash in the woods. The trio wander the cold, desolate forest before finding an old, seemingly deserted cabin and settling in for the night. Father of the year doesn’t make it to morning. Five years later the now feral girls are found and returned to their uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Annabelle (Jessica Chastain), but something else has come home with them and it’s not too keen on sharing custody.


Gangster Squad Reshoots

2012 is over. Gone forever. Never coming back. Based on our staff picks for the best features of 2012, it was far from a bad year. We had all kinds of good-to-great films, and we’d be lucky to have another year like it. Considering what we’ll see this year, 2013 could match 2012, as we’re getting movies from Martin Scorsese, Danny Boyle, Sofia Coppola, Edgar Wright, Jonathan Glazer, Steven Soderbergh, Park Chan Wook, and, most exciting of all, Adam McKay. Plenty of pictures to get excited over this year, and, to the start the year off, we have about 5 to build some anticipation over. Here they are:



Why Watch? This January, we’ll be able to see Andres Muschietti‘s Mama, which finds Nicolaj Coster-Waldau and a goth Jessica Chastain adopting two feral girls (trailer here). The feature makes this short film a prologue to a much larger story, but it’s not hard to imagine what scared producer Guillermo del Toro when he first laid eyes on this gripping three minutes. Simplicity itself, the script for MAMA was probably less than a page, but the combination of screaming children, little feet running away in terror, groaning string music, camera work that seems to contort the space its in, and a jerking murder of humanity is more than enough to fray nerves. The 2008 short gets an improved presentation here, complete with an introduction from del Toro. [Aint it Cool] What will it cost you? Only 3 minutes. Skip work. Watch more short films.


Mama 2012 Trailer

Blanket statement: let’s stop associating with feral children. It really hasn’t worked out too well, you know? Cinematically speaking, we have Nell from Nell (heartbreaking), Howie Mandel’s character from Walk Like a Man (embarrassing), Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th (yup, he lived in the woods), The Penguin from Batman Returns (yick), and the little monsters of the upcoming Citadel (monstrous). When it comes to real life, well, perhaps you can draw yourself away from this brief listing of feral children over at Wikipedia, which I’ve been studying intently for quite awhile now, but good luck on that. That all said, look! New feral movie children! What a terrible idea! In Andres Muschietti‘s Mama, a pair of kids are discovered years after their mother was murdered and also after they disappeared into some nearby woods. To live in. Ever since. For years. Let’s definitely adopt them! Of course, their uncle (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has no choice, and does just that. Too bad that his little nieces might not have been alone in the woods after all (cue creepy stuff). And, for added scares, the gorgeous Jessica Chastain goes Goth for her role. After the break, check out the first trailer for the full-length Mama and, for added scares, you can also watch Muschietti’s original short, 2008’s Mamá, which inspired the film.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Welcome back to everyone’s favorite Friday afternoon mini-feature: Movies Getting Released on Days. Just kidding! It’s the Release Date Round-Up! Yee haw! This time around, we check out the latest dates for Summit Entertainment’s feature adaptation of a beloved YA novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which has been shoved safely away from either Liberal Arts or The Master (your call), along with three very special (read: very different) Universal films, all getting the boot around the release date schedule. Break out your day planners, and read on for new release dates for The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Oblivion, Mama, and Rush.

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published: 01.25.2015
published: 01.25.2015
published: 01.25.2015

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