Saving Private Ryan

Inglourious Basterds - Shoshanna

Happy Veterans Day, or early Veterans Day if this goes up early, or belated Veterans Day if it goes up late! Don’t blame me, blame our unpatriotic commie editors. (Note to editors: It was just a joke! Haha! Please give me back my family.) And what better way to celebrate our veterans than a good old fashioned war movie! But what if, like me, you’re not really a fan of war movies? Well, never fear, because I am here to help with these war movies for people who don’t like war movies. Simple enough? Good. MOVE OUT!

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diesel_1_of_2

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. Many know the origin story of Vin Diesel, how he broke into Hollywood by not only showing true acting talent but also writing and directing his way onto the scene with both a short film and a feature. How the former went to Cannes and (eventually) was seen by none other than Steven Spielberg, who cast the struggling 30-year-old, who was getting by working as a bouncer, for a breakthrough ensemble role in Saving Private Ryan. And how he’s been mostly racing cars and fighting alien creatures on the big screen ever since. But the Riddick star was around for a while before his short start, which is titled Multi-Facial. And not just as an extra in the 1990 Best Picture nominee Awakenings (see those three seconds of fame here). He’d been acting on the stage since a kid and in his teens had begun rapping and breakdancing. His rhyming skills can be heard and seen in two separate songs in Multi-Facial, one on the soundtrack titled “Middleman” and another on screen performance during an audition scene. As for his moves, they were thankfully recorded seemingly only for future embarrassment purposes in 1984. Still going by his given name of Mark Vincent at the time, the 17-year-old appeared in the Sony VHS release Breakin’ in the USA: Break Dancing and Electric Boogie Taught by the Pros. The […]

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IntroMacGuffins

First popularized by Hitchcock, Merriam-Webster defines a ‘MacGuffin’ as “an object, event, or character in a film or story that serves to set and keep the plot in motion despite usually lacking intrinsic importance.” Basically it’s the thing that makes the movie go. For example, R2-D2 is considered by George Lucas to be the MacGuffin of the Star Wars films. But what of human MacGuffins? Anyone can be a hostage or damsel in distress, so lets look at some of the less than conventional living beings that have propelled a plot.

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This week’s Scenes We Love goes out to the many men and women who have served in the military, whether in combat or not. Today is, of course, Veteran’s Day, with national observance tomorrow, and we have a mix of clips to honor the occasion. Of course, it hardly represents the numerous films since cinema began that deal specifically with the veteran experience or simply feature a character who is a veteran. They’re just some that we thought of and had something to say about. Hopefully they’re all considered as respectful as we intend. We welcome mention of additional favorites, regardless of whether or not the scene is streaming somewhere online, in the comments below.

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Criterion Files

First is a precarious position to be in, for in retrospect you stand in for the entire legacy (or, at least, for inaugurating the legacy) of the thing itself. It’s tough being the first, and can be burdensome. And of the first ten movies that were admitted into the Criterion Collection, there are some confounding choices. The Lady Vanishes (Spine #3), for instance, is a great film, but hardly amongst Hitchcock’s best (or even his best British work). It’s an…interesting choice for the first Hitchcock film in the DVD collection that would come to define 21st century cinephilia. But then again, way back in 1998, whose to say that the Criterion Collection had any idea the reputation it would cultivate? Criterion’s choices for its first two releases, however, are pitch-perfect. Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, the film that defined his legacy and had a greater influence on world cinema than even his Rashomon, sits prominently at Spine #2. And Jean Renoir’s anti-war, prewar masterpiece, Grand Illusion, sits deservedly in Criterion’s #1 spot, with the weight of important classic and contemporary cinema resting comfortably on its shoulders. Grand Illusion may admittedly not have the empirical evidence of definitive influence of Seven Samurai (in other words, it has yet to be remade into a Western). But that is perhaps to its benefit. While Kurosawa made tens of samurai films, Renoir never made another movie quite like Grand Illusion, and the film still occupies a singular place in the history of war cinema – […]

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Let’s face it. If you need to threaten an enemy from a middle range distance, clear a ton of jungle in a hurry or carmelize the top of a crème brûlée, there’s nothing better for the job than a flamethrower. It’s a gun that throws fire. As your head wraps around that awesome concept (just as it does on a daily basis when you daydream about owning one), consider this beautiful instrument of destruction’s place in film. Sure, Bellflower comes out this week (and should energize you to convert daydreaming into action), but there’s a storied history here to uncover, and a future that’s assured to be bright enough to demand protective gear. Here are just a handful of movies that put the flamethrower on the burnt pedestal it deserves to sit upon.

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Culture Warrior

I often find that, as a devotee to cinema and little else, I understand history through cinema. After all, cinema can take me to places I’ve never been and times I never lived with a particular sensory gestalt that’s simply not quite the same in other art forms. This is not to say that I make the mistake of substituting cinema for history, or treat cinema the same way I would treat a credible historical annal. But cinema, especially narrative fiction, has a fascinating capacity to represent subjective experiences and particular perspectives of history. By considering history through its cinematic representation, we may not become authorities of chronology, but rather understand emotions and experiences associated with lived events. Few movies claim to be comprehensive authorities of historical representation through cinema (and yes, selection, while problematic is essential for historical writing as well, but cinema simply provides yet another layer of artifice). Some films are canonized as such (anything from Saving Private Ryan to Ken Burns’s documentaries), but even as these are incomplete historiographies, they are in a sense “complete” biographies of thought, reflection, interpretation, and emotion.

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Few modern war movies exemplify the courage of a fighting force quite like Saving Private Ryan. Steven Spielberg deftly drew out performances from a varied cast of veterans and newcomers, and he even had a few tricks up his sleeve. For one, all of the actors went through military training except for Matt Damon so the cast would be bitter toward him. A more technical trick was attached drills to the sides of the cameras in order to make them shake the way he wanted them to. It wasn’t until they started shooting that Spielberg was informed that there were lenses that would create the effect (and that he didn’t invent some crazy new technology).

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Criterion Files

In anticipation of Terrence Malick’s much-buzzed and much-argued-about Tree of Life, Adam and Landon are doing a two-part series on Malick’s films in the Criterion Collection. Part 1 – The Thin Red Line. The Thin Red Line (1998) is a film that accomplished many things. Least of which is the fact that, as the film was released twenty years after his previous completed work Days of Heaven, it established Terrence Malick as still a working filmmaker. While Malick had developed and abandoned several projects in the two decades that straddled his second and third feature films, the notoriously private director temporarily retired to France and workshopped a variety of screenplays and stage plays that, for one reason or another, never manifested. Though Malick’s sparse filmography hardly grants him a persona of being a prolific artist, his twenty-year filmmaking “hiatus” was never a hiatus at all, but was instead brimming with activity for potential projects. The Thin Red Line, then, should be thought of not as a decided return to filmmaking which assumes that the film is either a project twenty years in the making or the only thing he came across in twenty years worth making (as an academic who almost completed his doctorate and as a working journalist before becoming a filmmaker, part of the mystery surrounding the very private Malick is that filmmaking is simply one of several trades that define him – he’s like a far less public James Franco). The Thin Red Line may be more […]

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Whether they are hitting shelves This Week in DVD or This Week in Blu-ray, chances are slim that a great home video release gets by either Rob Hunter or Neil Miller. Together, they provide some of the blogosphere’s most consistent (ok, mostly Rob, but you get the idea) coverage of the best take-homes from week to week. Whether you’re using them to help you fill your shopping cart or your Netflix queue, surveys have shown that you are using them. And with 2010 coming to a close, we thought it only fitting to give these two shut-ins a shot at listing their favorite home video releases of the year. From the fun to the feature-filled, there were plenty of great releases from which to choose. So prepare yourself, as you always do, to sacrifice the weight of your pocketbook in exchange for in-home cinematic bliss.

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Another wonderfully sporadic week here on This Week in Blu-ray. Full of great catalog releases and absolutely horrible new releases…

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cultwarrior_decadeinreview

This week’s Culture Warrior gives an exhaustive review of the decade that you won’t find anywhere else on the Interwebs.

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You might want to play it over and over. A quick video of some iconic movie titles delivered by the movies themselves.

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captainamericawwii

Joe Johnston worked on Raiders of the Lost Ark, directed The Rocketeer, and I have no idea if he’s connected at all to Saving Private Ryan, but it looks like he’ll be bringing that signature style to Captain America.

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gi-joe-review-1

Over the course of the past several months, there has been a lot of talk about G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Well, it is time to stop all the rumoring and badmouthing and start talking about a film that, in a very basic way, is good.

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Test your girlfriend.

Love is in the air for some reason, so we’ve developed a fool-proof way of testing whether your significant other is worth your time. Now for guys!

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Quantum of Solace director Marc Forster

I’ve been a James Bond superfan going on 22 years. Before yesterday, there were only two Bond films I hated–A View to a Kill, and License to Kill. Now there’s a third. Because overall, Quantum of Solace just plain sucked.

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It’s okay to admit you cry once in a while guys. As long as you beat a gorilla to death immediately afterward, you can still be considered manly. Luckily, there’s a few flicks out there that let us cry at will – here’s ten of ‘em.

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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