Waiting for Superman

The public school system-targeted message drama Won’t Back Down is a kind of war film. It opens on a hazy classroom scene in which a little girl is attempting to read a sentence on the blackboard as her fellow grunts are half-dying (learning-wise) around her. The sound is muffled, as if a bomb has just gone off and the blast has damaged the characters’ hearing. Machine gun fire is heard nearby, from another student’s video game. Their leader is preoccupied with her own life and useless to them. The enemy that the girl is currently up against is the word “story.” If that’s not a baited call for criticism with the film’s own story… And indeed it’s a fitting moment, but not because the story is badly told so much as the children get lost in it. The film recognizes that there is an education war going on, with revolutionary parents battling powerful teachers unions, and it’s the children stuck in the trenches, caught in the crossfire. But at the same time, Won’t Back Down is not really about the kids, either.

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This Week in Blu-ray

This Week in Blu-ray is all about the unexpected. I expected to put Christopher Nolan’s breakout drama Memento on page one as my pick of the week, but was swayed instantly and heavily by the latest contemporary classic being added to the Criterion Collection. I’ve also found comfort in another season of Weeds, even though it’s not the best work of the Botwin clan. We also dig deep into some intentional schlock-and-awe, pull the rug out from under the latest Galifianakis joint, explore the crisis in America’s public schools and without warning, I sing to you. Yes, dear readers of the high definition affliction, I bet you didn’t expect me to break out into song, did you? Fish Tank Most people know The Criterion Collection for their work in the realm of classic films — restorations, remasterings and the cataloging of cinema history’s most important works. So when they take a contemporary film and add it to their collection, you know that’s something special. Take Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, a tough-as-nails portrait of a girl on the cusp of womanhood, dealing with life in the housing projects of Essex, forced to live in close quarters with Michael Fassbender. In all honesty, I would probably try to sleep with that man if given the chance. Alas, that’s not part of the equation here, so I’ll tell you what is. A quality film, a meticulously crafted presentation (as only Criterion can deliver) and plenty of extras, including three short films from director […]

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This Week in DVD

I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day yesterday, and by that I mean I hope you all went about your business as if it was just another Monday. I know my girlfriend certainly did. The holiday has never held much appeal for me, regardless of my relationship status at the time, aside from the fact that it’s a perfect excuse to settle in for a double feature of Closer and Notting Hill. Granted, I do that a couple times per year anyway, but there’s something special about watching these two films right after another on Valentine’s Day… and it works to completely different effect depending on which order you watch them in too. Will Julia Roberts find happiness or will she be emotionally devastated? You hold the power in your hands. But let’s move on to this week’s DVD releases. Surprisingly there are no romantic comedies hitting shelves today, although my pick of the week probably comes closest. Summer Wars A teenage geek is asked by a very cute classmate to accompany her home and pretend that he’s her boyfriend. The visit gets off to a bumpy ride as he meets her wise grandmother and the rest of her extended family, but things take an even worse turn when a cyber attack in Japan’s biggest online world (think Second Life, only popular) causes havoc in the real one and he’s accused of causing it. Anime isn’t something that normally appeals to me for various reasons, but if there are […]

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The Producers Guild of America is known for aligning its picks with the Oscar nominations with the startling regularity that can only come when two groups share the same voting pool. That’s why groups like, say, the Hollywood Foreign Press (who I think actually nominated a nip-slip video this year) doesn’t match up at all. The PGA, which announced its award nominees today, went 9 for 10 last year, and by the looks of this list, they might just do it again in 2011.

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Culture Warrior

With the release of Pixar’s Up, last year saw a great deal of conversation surrounding the ghettoization of animated movies at major awards shows. This debate resulted in something of a minor, qualified victory for animated cinema of 2009, as Up was the first animated movie to be nominated for Best Picture since Beauty and the Beast, but then again it sat amongst a crowded bevy of nine fellow nominations, and animated films remain unthreatening to their live action competitors because of the separate-but-unequal Best Animated Feature Category. I’d like to take this space to advocate for the big-category acceptance of yet another marginalized and underappreciated category around awards time: non-fiction films.

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The Reject Report

Greed is good. Greed is legal. Yeah, we’ve heard all that malarkey before, and it’s obvious. Why else would studios release their films on more than 3000 screens in one weekend? That almighty coin that keeps Hollywood turning and those glorious things we call motion pictures hitting left and right ad nauseum. We’ve got two such films this weekend and two that aren’t opening quite as big. Both of the biggies are pulling in hype based around their respective brand loyalty, but they each have something new to offer, as well. It’s Shia LaBeouf Vs. the talking owls here at the Reject Report. Let the best squawker win.

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We realize that you’re probably sitting at home right now, chewing your own nails off and wondering what movies are coming out this month. Maybe you’re even wondering why no one on the entire internet has said anything about them by now. Strange, we know. Fortunately, Rob Hunter and Cole Abaius spent the entire month of August going to the local library, making phone calls to important producers and making fan trailers out of macaroni to make sure that you, dear reader, are in the know about what’s coming out in September. Don’t let Machete scare you. If you watch movies, this guide’s for you.

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From the director of An Inconvenient Truth comes an inconvenient truth about our school system.

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Twilight: Eclipse

According to today’s final line-up press release, LAFF will welcome the world premiere of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, the third film in the popular glittery vampire romance franchise. But fans might be disappointed about how it’s scheduled to go down.

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Last night at a ceremony here in Park City, Utah, the winners of the annual awards were announced…

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John Travolta with an RPG, school children sitting amongst rubble, and a family portrait featuring Labeouf and Douglas round out this week’s posters.

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