Stoker

2013review_trailers

What were the best trailers of the year trying to sell? Movies and moods and ideas and awards and stars and sexiness and just a lot of great music. And maybe, just maybe, something more (read: more movie tickets). Not every great trailer advertises a great film, but sometimes even the most lackluster productions can gift movie fans with two minutes of cinematic glory (all the better if said trailer can include Kanye West screaming or Nicole Kidman redefining “cold” or even the glories of street dancing) worth lauding all on their own. This year saw a vast batch of standout trailers, and while our listing of best trailers of the year is nothing if not varied, all of the videos contained within share one key element – they effectively conveyed tone and feeling without revealing too much about plot and characters. As mini mood pieces, these thirteen trailers nailed it, as bits of marketing, they made us want to buy and buy big time.  What were the best trailers of the year trying to sell? Oh, it doesn’t matter – we were ready to buy.

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2013review_music

This year brought moviegoers an array of music that ranged from uplifting (About Time “How Long Will I Love You”) to depressing (The Great Gatsby‘s “Young and Beautiful”) to catchy (Inside Llewyn Davis‘ “Please Mr. Kennedy”) to nostalgic (Saving Mr. Banks‘ “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”) to just plain out there (Spring Breakers‘ “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites”). Whether it was a film about throwing (or attending) the best party of your life or one about intense family drama, the music pushed stories to new heights, whether it was an Alien rapping on the beach or two mothers pushing their children to the breaking point. Film music is no longer just orchestration and catchy pop songs – it is dubstep and bands you would normally hear on the radio taking to the conductor’s stand. Simply put – it is an exciting time for music in film because there are no rules. Now it’s time to relive some of the best music moments from this past year with scores from composers new to the scene and those continuing to churn out groundbreaking music, as well as soundtracks that featured songs from bands and artists who discovered new talents while collaborating.

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2013review_missed (1)

The 13 movies below range from the very good to the great (while the 6.5 that follow are just mostly bad), but the one thing they all share is that they each failed to find an audience during their theatrical run for one reason or another. At least one of those reasons is you of course, but instead of berating you for failing to support the films while they were in theaters and needed your help, we’re hoping to point you in their direction now to atone for your sins. But first, a few qualifications. I’ve excluded movies that played in fewer than 75 theaters since that’s the distributor’s fault, I’m not featuring films that made over $30m, and I’m not including subtitled foreign releases which the masses avoid in general. These are only films that could have had a real chance of making a lot more money than they did, so while I wish more people saw the Jared Leto-led Mr. Nobody, I’m not surprised that it only made $3,600. Finally, I’m also sharing the wealth a bit by skipping movies that will be making our Best Films of the Year list next week. So here are 13 great movies that failed to catch on at the box office but should be sought out immediately on Blu-ray/DVD, streaming, whatever… and 6.5 relatively terrible flicks that you were right to avoid.

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Sound City Movie

July marks the middle of summer, but it also marks the half way point of each year which means half the movies you were looking forward to seeing this year have already hit theater screens! With so many major studio releases out each weekend (plus a healthy offering of indie fare) it can be overwhelming to try and remember what you’ve seen, what you wanted to see, and any unexpected titles that may have caught your eye, but you never got a chance to actually sit down and check out. At the beginning of the year we posted a list of the 52 Most Anticipated Movies to come out in 2013 and with half the year already gone, it seemed like a good time to look back on the films that have already come out and highlight those with fantastic music you might have missed. Summer is the perfect time to play catch up on entertainment with most television shows on hiatus and long summer nights to fill so if you are looking for a list of movies from this year that featured noteworthy tunes, you have come to the right place. Some of these films are still out in theaters, some are already available on DVD, and some may need to be added to your Netflix queue to ensure you don’t miss them a second time, but all ten of these soundtracks should have you humming along well into December.

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Oscar 2013 Mid-Year

What kind of movies get released in January? In the summer? From November through December? Exactly. We know the cycle so well that a movie with only half a dozen explosions in June is considered counter-programming while Fall films are actively baiting golden statues and podiums. We know it so well that people predict the following year’s Oscars the day after the Oscars. We know it so well that the ceremony “shaking things up” has become the status quo. So I wondered what would happen if they truly shook things up by holding the Oscars in July. A kind of mid-year awards ceremony where The Weinstein Company hasn’t even brought out its heaviest hitters yet. This alternative universe isn’t necessarily about what movies are the best — because the Oscars almost never are. It’s about finding the close enough blend of prestige and popularity from the first half of the year, but make no mistake, it would still result in a wildly different list of nominees.

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discs rectify header

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Rectify Daniel Holden (Aden Young) is released from prison after serving 19 years on death row for the rape and murder of a teenage girl, but his return home opens up a world of troubled complications for everyone involved. The small, Southern community is divided on the issue of his innocence as the DNA evidence seems at odds with his own confession, and those doubts are just some of the issues he now faces. Character actor Ray McKinnon moves behind the camera here as the show’s creator, and the result is easily one of the year’s finest and most affecting shows. The story shares some thematic similarities to the brilliant Boy A, but it quickly finds its own rhythms and strengths thanks to a smart ensemble filled with heartbreaking performances and characters. It’s not needed, but the show also features some suspense and mystery surrounding Daniel’s possible guilt. It’s a short season at only six episodes, but happily Sundance Channel has ordered an additional ten for season two. [DVD extras: Featurettes]

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VOD: Jack the Giant Slayer

Something tall and smelly this way comes. No, it’s not the stench of a few weeks off that have plagued our patented, custom-built supercomputer known as the Video On Demand Power Ranker. It’s a movie from Bryan Singer, and not really the good kind. There’s also something delightful (maybe) for fans of short-form horror, fans of odd thrillers, the apocalypse and the grimace of Bruce Willis. Oh yeah, it’s all in there this week. And for your convenience, we’ve ranked them in order of worthiness for your hard-earned dollar.

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park

In his American film debut, Stoker, director Park Chan-wook‘s sensibility remains intact. Nothing about his sense of humor, eye for framing, or his stylish and brutal portrayal of violence has been softened or altered. The film plays in genre, which Park refers to as a “castle” he likes to regularly take twists and turns in. The critically-acclaimed director doesn’t see himself above genre, though. Park doesn’t subvert genre staples but fully embraces them with a slightly twisted view. We briefly spoke with Park about his genre work, how he’s made an R-rated version of Peter Pan, and more in our spoiler-y chat with him

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Oz the Great and Powerful

This January and February lived up to their dumping ground stigma. We saw a few satisfying films here and there, but we also saw A Good Day to Die Hard. Brian Salisbury gave that movie a whooping, and he, along with other critics, could have been much harder on John Moore’s bland nightmare of a movie. The good news about this March, though: no movies directed by John Moore. Instead we’re seeing films from Park Chan-Wook, Sam Raimi, Derek Cianfrance, Harmony Korine, and Antoine Fuqua, directors a bit more trust-worthy. Even though Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen didn’t make the must-see list, it looks like a better Die Hard movie than the one we just endured. Without anymore further mention of A Good Day to Die Hard (seriously, I think I’m hung up on it), here are the five films to check out this month:

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park lady vengeance

Park Chan-wook is one of South Korea’s top directors, and ever since his 2003 hit Oldboy crossed the ocean to rave reviews and cult status he’s become the most familiar Korean filmmaker to American audiences too. Of course, those audiences have remained small as foreign language films rarely reach or appeal to the masses. That starts to change this weekend though as Park’s English debut, Stoker, hit theaters on Friday in limited release with plans to expand throughout the month. (Check here to see if it will be playing near you.) While many of our readers are already familiar with Park’s films, many others will experience his work for the first time with Stoker. It’s a good movie, a beautiful one in fact, but it’s far from his best. (My review here.) That said, once you see it expect to walk out of the theater jonesing for more of his unique and endlessly fascinating vision. To that end, because I love sharing brilliant foreign films with fellow movie-lovers, I humbly offer up this list of Park’s Korean films ranked least best to best along with where you can find them…

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a60a42a4353c8a03bb4a165755d2d4dd.jpg

Short Starts presents a weekly short film from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. The new film Stoker represents a departure for South Korean director Park Chan-wook. It’s not only his first English-language feature but also his first time directing a screenplay written by someone else (Wentworth Miller, in this case). Whether this is a new phase in his career or just a one-off remains to be seen, but it’s certainly something new. Holding that in mind, let’s look back on another moment of transition in Park’s career. His first feature, The Moon Is… the Sun’s Dream, premiered in 1992 but break-out success didn’t come until 2000’s Joint Security Area. In between he directed 1997’s Saminjo (totally unavailable outside of South Korea) and one darkly comic short film that is probably his best-regarded early work.

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Stoker Movie

Editor’s note: This review originally ran as part of our Sundance 2013 coverage, but we’re re-running it to coincide with its arrival in limited theatrical release on 3/1. Park Chan-wook‘s films are held in deservedly high regard for various reasons. They’re often filled with desperate characters trapped in twisted, madcap situations, and while their worlds are violent and deadly places they’re never less than beautiful. He has an eye for framing and staging intensely attractive scenes of people laid bare emotionally and physically. His first English-language film, Stoker, opens in US theaters next month, and it’s already one of the year’s most visually appealing and strikingly stylish films. Unfortunately that’s pretty much all it is. India Stoker’s (Mia Wasikowska) father has died suddenly, but before she and her emotionally estranged mother (Nicole Kidman) can even begin to grieve, an uncle (Matthew Goode) she was previously unaware of arrives on their doorstep. Soon India’s already fractured world takes an ominous turn as people begin to disappear and Uncle Charlie’s interest in her moves in some inappropriate directions.

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Stoker

At the beginning of Stoker, India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) tells us she can hear things more clearly than most people, a talent that is quickly apparent seeing as every noise and sound in India’s life is amplified. From the crunching sound of an egg shell to the sharpening of a pencil, Stoker‘s sound design seems to take its cues from the opening credit sequence of Dexter, by turning seemingly innocent sounds into violent ones. Stoker’s director, Park Chan-Wook, makes his American debut here, but is well-versed in creating creepy worlds where violence and passion live hand-in-hand. This world is brought to eerie life by composer Clint Mansell, who creates a score that works seamlessly with Stoker’s unique sound design, plus a catchy hip-hop influence from Emily Wells and a new piano duet by Philip Glass. India’s voiceover, which begins the film and explains her unusual talents, is captured in the soundtrack’s first track, “I’m Not Formed by Things That Are of Myself Alone” and bleeds into Wells’ “Becomes The Color,” an upbeat song with a haunting chorus and a deconstructed ending that makes it the perfect introduction to Mansell’s score. His first track, “Happy Birthday (A Death in the Family),” has a light piano refrain that directly mirrors the chorus in “Becomes The Color,” introducing the importance of piano and creating a sense that everything heard (and possibly seen) in this world is simply an extension of something else.

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Prince Avalanche

Expectations? This is my first Sundance Film Festival, so the only things I know I’ll encounter are movies, cold snow, overpriced sandwiches, and familiar faces. It should be a great time provided the movies are good, the snow is outside my boots, the sandwiches are tasty and the faces are friendly. Prepare for some very disgruntled tweets otherwise. Looking through the list of titles playing Sundance this year, I tallied a whopping thirty-eight films that I want to see. Kate Erbland said that made her too nervous, presumably because it’s so close to her age (something she’s very conscious of, EDIT: not even close, Hunter!), so she asked me to drop it to a more youthful number. It wasn’t easy to do, but through a complicated series of algorithms and drinking games, I knocked off twenty-eight. What remains are my ten most anticipated films of Sundance 2013! Read them, and be as excited as I am at the prospect of maybe getting in to see them!

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The Best Movie Trailers of 2012

Everyone knows you can’t judge a book by its cover, but were you aware that movies shouldn’t be judged by a trailer either? I know, seems counter-intuitive, but while the trailer advertises a feature the two aren’t interchangeable. Terrible trailers sometimes give way to fantastic films just as brilliant trailers sometimes reveal ridiculously bad ones. It’s a crap shoot really. The list below features twelve of our favorite trailers that premiered in 2012. Some of the movies turned out to be gems, others ended up being far less impressive and a few won’t be released until 2013, but all of them made us excited to watch one more movie…

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly thing about movie things, mostly dedicated to rounding up the best uncovered news of the day, with a few nice caveats thrown in for good measure. Tonight, it’s all business, baby. Nolan on Superman – “Superman is the biggest comic book character of them all and he needs the biggest possible movie version which is what Zack’s doing. It’s really something.” That’s pretty big there, Mr. Nolan. 

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The Avengers

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly news column that was on hiatus, but has now been back for a solid week. And it feels good to be back. As Ernie Hudson might remark, it loves this town. Short on List, Big on Effects – The big Oscar shortlist for Best Visual Effects has come out. And while it includes some of the ones you’d expect — The Avengers, Cloud Atlas, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises — there are also a few interesting surprises, including Prometheus, Life of Pi, John Carter and yes, even The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The question is this: will The Hobbit run away with this one due to a late-year release, or will people remember that ridiculous following shot through the war-torn streets of New York in The Avengers?

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Stoker poster

Three of the leading South Korean film directors are set to make their English language debuts next year, and while we’re incredibly excited to see all three succeed we’d be lying if we said we weren’t a little bit nervous too. First out of the gate will be Kim Jee-woon’s The Last Stand in January, and last to hit theaters will be Bong Joon-ho’s Snow Piercer late in the year. Nestled in between those two is the March release of Park Chan-wook‘s Stoker. But judging by the recent trailer debut and this newly released poster I don’t think we need to worry anymore that Hollywood has squashed Park’s creativity and talents. In a world where most poster “designs” are simply photoshop jobs appealing to the lowest common denominator Park and Fox Searchlight have opted instead to go with true art. Check out the full poster below.

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Stoker Trailer

There’s nothing quite like a dead dad, a hot uncle, and a wicked mother to really mess a kid up. After all, that classic formula worked out totally okay (read: horribly) for young Hamlet and myriad others who were inspired by Shakespeare’s classic work, so why not just keep on keeping on with said formula? Sound a little played out? What if Park Chan-wookwas steering it? Oh, you’re interested now, are you? The Oldboy and Thirst director finally brings his talents to an English-language feature with the Wentworth Miller- and Erin Cressida Wilson-penned Stoker, starring Mia Wasikwoska, Matthew Goode, and a deliciously evil Nicole Kidman. The film’s first trailer makes its Hamlet bones clear early on, introducing us to India (Wasikowska), her nutball mother (Kidman), her recently departed dad (Dermot Mulroney), and the uncle she never knew she had (Goode), who comes to, ahem, attend to some things after ol’ Daddy Stoker’s death. And then, well, then things take a turn. Take a look:

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Park Chan-wook

According to Box Office Mojo, Chan-wook Park‘s first English-language film, Stoker, will hit theaters on March 1, 2013. The film stars Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Jacki Weaver, Lucas Till and Dermot Mulroney in a story about a young girl who’s recently lost her father and has to deal with a strange uncle who arrives and embeds himself into her life. It’s exciting to see a definite release (this was on our list of Most Anticipated for 2012 as TBA), and it would be exciting to see any new Park work, but it’s especially interesting to see if he can avoid the pitfalls with making a movie within the studio system. He’s a bold visionary, and it’s unclear whether the potential of limitations might hamper his capabilities or whether he’ll use them to craft something incredible. We’ll see in March, the same weekend that Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium is schedule to screen. Not a bad double feature.

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