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Kelly Lin as one of the many "birds" who flits through one of 2008's must-see films, Johnny To Kei-Fung's Sparrow, now out on DVD.

Your DVD releases for the week of 12/30:

American Carol - While movie comedy can often grow up to be a rugged little beastie with a long and healthy life span, all God's creatures need proper nourishment and plenty of care if they're going to live and thrive and make us laugh; sadly, there is little of that in the bleak media environs of movement conservatism, where every organism is expected to pull itself around by the boot straps, hustle arms contracts, or otherwise make-do on Cheetos, Chuck Norris' smile, and good old white Protestant paranoia. (Dex)

Battle for Haditha

The Brave Archer - This Cheng Cheh directed, Alexander Fu Sheng starring vehicle might not be as essential as The One-Armed Swordsman, Legendary Weapons of China or The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, but it is one fun kung fu actioner (if slightly lower than first-tier). Based on characters from the book "Legend of the Condor Heroes" (aka The Eagle Shooting Heroes) which was also the basis for Wong Kar-Wai's Ashes of Time, The Brave Archer is in the classic Shaw tradition of garrish color, high drama and rousing kung fu action. (Pike Bishop)

Cats of Mirikitani
Dutch Junkies
The Elizabeth Smart Story
Gamera the Brave
Internet Dating
Neo Ned

Sparrow - See the "Best of 2008" lists by Amber and Dex for more on Johnny To's work.

Surfer, Dude
Thug City Chronicles
Train of the Dead

Woman on the Beach - What has been called Korean director Hong Sang-Soo's most accessible film, Woman on the Beach is the story of a film director with writer's block that convinces his production designer to join him at an off-season beach resort to work on the next film. The production designer brings his girlfriend with whom the director, over time, finds himself becoming enamored. The girlfriend soon sleeps with the director only to be shunned afterwards for a minor detail of her past that he finds distasteful. Later, needing to soothe an itch he can't scratch, the director returns to the beach resort to re-enact the scene with another woman. Part Claire's Knee and part Vertigo, Woman on the Beach is a sometimes disquieting look into the nature of human impulse left unrestrained. (Pike Bishop)

Young Warriors
Zion Canyon


nazis, get off my lawn! : denver premieres for xmas weekend

"Jeez - this Protocols of the Elders of Zion thing you gave me to read is totally whack! Can we have sex again now?"

Our man Pike Bishop isn't too happy with what Santa left under the tree this year:

Gran Torino- Clint Eastwood has been trying to apologize for the mythologized violence in film since his half-articulate oater Unforgiven in 1992. Note to Clint- No one asked for your apology. John Ford, John Sturges, Don Siegel, Robert Aldrich, Anthony Mann, Sam Peckinpah and even Sergio Leone did not ask for a third-rate actor turned middling director to throw out one cinematic mea-culpa after another in their name. So get over your “remorseful old codger” shtick and do something with a little thought behind it. There is a reason why there is still vitality in John Ford’s The Searchers or Anthony Mann’s The Naked Spur. There is also a reason why your films are as dry and decrepit as the characters that inhabit them. Figure out the difference and get back to us with something that shows that you earn the title of “Greatest Living American Director” bestowed upon you by your sycophantic admirers.

Valkyrie- Once again Tom Cruise must single-handedly save the world. After curing the 911 responders with high doses of niacin through his “New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project” and freeing the world from the dreaded, Nazi science of psychiatry, Tom Cruise has decided to travel back in time to fantasy-cast himself into the role of Claus von Stauffenberg, the man who tried to kill Hitler. If, unlike von Stauffenberg, Cruise succeeds in killing Hitler, it will be a ternary of great deeds that will leave no doubt to us mere mortals that he is our better and we must immediately give him the title of “King of the World.” With Tom Cruise’s star-turn in Valkyrie coming out on the heels of Will Smith’s Seven Pounds, the race for the coveted Time magazine honor of “Most Self-Serving Martyr of the Year” award has tightened.

The Reader- Why is it that people are so fascinated by Holocaust fiction with psycho-sexual elements? First there was the book "The House of Dolls," a purportedly true account of a Jewish girl’s experience in a Nazi labor camp’s 'Joy Division.' After that came the underground Israeli pornographic novels called 'Stalags' of the late fifties and early sixties, that went on to spawn the Nazi fetish look of films like Ilsa: She Wolf of the S.S. and Salon Kitty. The psycho-sexual Nazi element is also used as titillation in so-called 'Art Films' like The Night Porter, Schindler’s List, and Aimee & Jaguar. Now we have The Reader, a film based on Bernhard Schlink’s best-selling novel about a man named Michael, who must confront the fact that the older woman that ushered in his sexual development as a teen (and subsequent sexual desires), was a Nazi SS guard during the war. Ralph Feinnes plays the Grown-up Michael and Kate Winslet plays Hannah Schmitz, the ex-SS guard/cougar that gives young Michael lessons in love. The film is directed by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours) from a script written by the playwright, David Hare (The Hours and the forthcoming The Corrections). My only question with films like this is whether it is possible for the substance of a moral or ethical point to shine through the tarnish of a sexualized, fetishized Nazi mythos? Go see it and decide for yourself.

Bedtime Stories- Adam Sandler and the “House of the Mouse” team up to bring your kiddies a middle-brow beating. Sandler plays a hotel handyman who realizes that the bedtime stories he is telling to his niece and nephew are coming true in the real world. Add two parts sophomoric humor, one part meaningless love interest and one part pandering morality and you have the Sandler formula in kid-friendly form, ready to teach them a lesson in low expectations. I don’t think Mary Poppins would approve.

Marley and Me- Adapted from the best-selling autobiographical book by John Grogan, Marley & Me is about Grogan’s family and their dog Marley, a Golden Retriever who is a bad dog with a heart of gold. Twentieth Century Fox is sending out a little Christmas cheer aimed at the book’s legion of fans, but for the rest of us it will probably have all of the entertainment value of a years worth of Marmaduke panels shot at 24 frames per second. The film stars Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston and is directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada).

Lola Montes- This late period Max Ophuls film has been immaculately restored for theatrical presentation. It is about the life of a liberated adventuress as told in flashbacks from her current life as a circus performer. Shot in Cinemascope in lush, vibrant colors, Lola Montes just begs to be seen on the large screen. If you like films that are along the lines of Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes or Tales of Hoffman, then please go see this in the cinema. It will come out on Criterion DVD in the near future, but really this was meant to be seen in a format that is larger than life. Lola Montes is only playing for a week (December 25th through January 1st) at the Starz FilmCenter so please try to see it before it’s gone.

The Spirit - While Frank Miller's late period graphic work ("300," "Sin City") stripped the medium down to its most lascivious elements - the violence, the feminine form, and the pulp story lines - those books also had a kind of avant garde elegance, like a particularly brutal Asian calligraphy. His leap to film has not suffered these indulgences: his 2005 collaboration with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez on Sin City was an absolute mess of gore and bad dialogue that Mickey Rourke's possessed performance or Brittany Murphy's come-hither look could not save. The Spirit, Miller's adaptation of comic great Will Eisner's wink-wink-noir-noir masked crime fighter, looks to be similarly deranged. It's one thing to play with or exploit the conventions of noir, neo-noir, and classic thrillers, but it's another thing entirely to wallow in their most superficial aspects - you get no extra points for Scarlett Johansson in a scoop-necked blouse. And what's with the green screen? Aren't there any cities where you can shoot a movie any place any more? (Dex)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - It would be easy to take the low-road and blog all cynical and worldly-wise with David Fincher's new film: the adaptation of a minor F. Scott Fitzgerald story about a man who ages backwards looks to have all the trappings of the kind of Hollywood bloat that finds its way into theatres this time of year, what with uber-star Brad Pitt, the running time, and the mix of fictional melodrama against a backdrop of real-world events; it's even scripted by the guy who wrote Forrest-fucking-Gump. But Zodiac (2007), Fincher's last picture (a re-telling of a San Francisco newspaper cartoonist's obsession with the so-called Zodiac Killer) came as a complete surprise, and was chock-a-block with meaty scenes of tension and drama which showed some real chops on Fincher's part. It's always nice to find something under the tree you didn't expect to ever get, so perhaps this is indeed the case with Benjamin Button (at the very least, it makes a great porn title). (Dex)


Amber's Tops for 2008

It's the end of yet another year, and another year of relatively few compelling films hitting the big screen in our fair city. So, I admit that I'm being rather subjective when it comes to release dates; maybe some of these were released a bit sooner on big screens in other locales. Whether you're a late-comer or one of the millions of film fans not in NY or LA, this is where the wonder of DVD comes in. Here's a quick run down on 10 of my favorites that became at least available this year.

10. Teeth- US, Directorial debut from Mitchell Lichenstein. A fun twist on both the coming-of-age story and the lady revenge tale, Teeth is campy, quirky and hilarious without stooping to stupidity. (Note: Domestic DVD available.)

9. Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in)- Sweden, Directed by Tomas Alfredson. A neat twist on the tired, contemporary vampire genre with a delightfully insidious, misanthropic take on love and need. (Note: If you missed this in the theatre, the domestic DVD will be out in March.) Dex reviews here.

8. The Orphanage (El Orfanato)- Spain, Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona. Bearing the phantasmagoric and gothic sense shared by producing pal Guillermo Del Toro (Devil’s Backbone), this film has just the right amount of creepiness and atmosphere, but it is the psychological disturbance that sets it over the top. (Note: Domestic DVD available.)

7. Old Garden (Orae-doen jeongwon)- S. Korea, Directed by Im Sang-soo (President’s Last Bang). A sweet, sad and beautifully shot story about romantic love, political rebellion and time. (Note: This has never been released in the US, but I saw it this year. You can pick up a R3 DVD with English subs from Sidus CNI.)

6. Chocolate- Thailand, Directed by Prachya Pinkaew (Ong-bak). Flat-out, action-packed comedy thrill-fest. Uma Thurman, hang your head in shame: JeeJa Yanin’s coming to get you. (Note: It looks like the US DVD will come out through Magnolia someday. In the meantime, there’s a UK R2 with subs from Cine Asia.) Pike Bishop reviews here.

5. Love & Honor (Bushi no ichibun)- Japan, Directed by Yamada Yoji (Twilight Samurai). This final installment in a magnificent trilogy portraying samurai at the end of an era takes a fresh look at truth, gossip, duty and honor. (Note: Domestic DVD available.)

4. Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame (Buda as sharm foru rikht)- Iran, Directed by Hana Makhmalbaf. Centering around a plucky, young Afghani girl attempting to go to school so she can “learn to read funny stories”, this film is one of the most gut-wrenchingly sad tales of children, war, religion and politics. (Note: Once more, this film hasn’t broken out of the odd film fest on these shores, but there’s a UK R2 DVD available from Contender.)

3. The Sun Also Rises (Tai yang zhao chang sheng qi)- China, Directed by Wen Jiang (Devils on the Doorstep). While not as automatically compelling as Devils on the Doorstep, it is quirky, political, somewhat disturbing and gorgeous. I can’t help feeling that there’s more to this series of tales than I got at first blush. (Note: Yet another fantastic movie that no one will put out in the US. Luckily, there’s a swell Hong Kong R0 DVD from Joy Sales available.)

2. Mad Detective (Sun taam)- Hong Kong, Directed by Johnnie To and Ka-Fai Wai (Exiled, Election, etc). What could have been a merely solid detective story becomes an artful masterpiece in the hands of the gifted Johnnie To. (Note: Apparently IFC films will be distributing this someday. For now, there’s a R0 Hong Kong DVD from Mei Ah or a UK R2 DVD from Masters of Cinema.)

1. Inside (À l'intérieur)- France, Directorial debut of Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury. A top-notch scary splatter flick that also happens to contain a (maybe too) well-hidden socio-political backbone. (Note: Again, we’ve never gotten a stateside release, but at least the domestic DVD is available.) Dex reviews here.


all your top ten lists are belong to dex: dex's top ten films of 2008

2008 at the movies: we just couldn't hit the brakes fast enough.

"Paucity" was the word at the top of the marquee in 2008: aside from the occasional strong performance in the occasional halfway decent movie, the run of daring narrative films at theatres (bracketed by a slew of must-see docs) slowed noticeably in this last year, and only documentarians (Herzog, Gibney, Morris) stayed hot. With the rare exception (Romero, Kaufman) and the barrage of comic book flicks, the genre picture was mostly MIA, too. Was it the economy? The lingering effects of the writer's strike? Or an all-around fatigue of Bush Time - "no one left to lie to," as it were?

But enough of all that. On to the list, such as it is. Remember that lists are only as good as the listmaker, and there's a lot I still haven't seen.

10) Stuck.

9) Milk. It's a biopic, and it does all things biopics do (The protagonist discovers him/herself! But there are challenges! But then they're overcome! But then there's the price of success! And then there's something even more horrible! But history will vindicate him/her!), but the cast is so invested in this film (the scenes between Sean Penn and Josh Brolin are textured and masterfully understated, and the chemsitry between James Franco and Penn feels quite genuine), director Gus Van Sant mostly avoids the cliches this subgenre often lends itself to, and Duncan Lance Black's script keeps things focused on the nuts and bolts of grassroots organizing and the gay rights movement of the 1970s instead of speechifying and schmaltz. The results are often outstanding.

8) Reprise. Woody Allen as a Norwegian punk rocker.

7) Redbelt.

6) Standard Operating Procedure.

5) Diary of the Dead.
In spite of a stumbling start, George Romero's latest zombie pic swiftly evolves into a highly personal, profoundly political, and thrilling film right up to its last breath-taking moment. His best since his Dawn of the Dead, and maybe the best horror movie of Bush Time.

4) Sparrow. When is a musical not a musical? And would it be any good? Answer - when it's Johnny To's Sparrow, and yes. Very.

3) Inside.

2) Taxi to the Dark Side. Alex Gibney's systems view of the Bush Administration's illegal and immoral program of rendition and torture, the lynchpin of the seven and a half year frontal assault the Bush cabal made on the right to exist as a free and independent human being. Taxi does all of the things we wanted Errol Morris to do with Standard Operating Procedure (the latter, in fact, would be best viewed on a double-bill with Gibney's doc). If there's ever a truth commission - or, heaven forbid, actual prosecution - over the criminal brutality George W. Bush and Dick Cheney wrought in their all-too-long eight years, Taxi to the Dark Side must be part of the indictment.

1) Encounters at the End of the World. The End of All Things have once again preoccupied filmmakers high and low, here and abroad. Few of them, however, engage the prospect we're shuffling towards a final exit of our own design head-on, and this is what makes the super-prolific, super-brilliant Werner Herzog's latest movie so special: he humbly, humanly, but unblinkingly considers as much of this idea and the full range of emotions it stirs up as one person can.

Honorable mentions: The Dark Knight (wildly entertaining and ably acted - Heath Ledger's performance is indeed a bolt from the blue - though the much-heralded realism evaporates on the second or third viewing. Michael Keaton's still my Batman.); Let the Right One In (despite my problems with what I think is the major theme of the film, it's exceptionally well-made, and the best vampire film in over twenty years); Iron Man (where Dark Knight left its sense of humor); Poultrygeist (They Live and Michael Pollan get reeeally fucked up and have a threesome with Lloyd Kaufman); Ashes of Time Redux (still fresh and wonderful after all these years); Girl Cut in Two (dense as hell, though the fabulous Ludivine Sagnier keeps you riveted); and anything that Natalie Portman made. Even if it sucked.

So that's it, Boothers - my take on the year in cinema, two thousand and eight. At least we got a Mena Suvari nude scene out of it.

friday classic movie blogging

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. (1974). Directed by Joseph Sargent. Written by Peter Stone. Based on the novel by John Godey. Starring Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, Earl Hindman, James Broderick, Dick O'Neil, Lee Wallace, Tom Pedi, Beatrice Winde, Jerry Stiller.

"Crazy wisdom is, of course, the opposite of conventional wisdom," writes Tom Robbins. The conventional wisdom says that casting Walter Matthau, Dick O'Neil, and Jerry Stiller as the heroic leads and Robert Shaw and Martin Balsam as the bad guys in your hostage-n'-heist thriller where almost nothing ever happens equals snoresville. But that's conventional wisdom talking, and since Pelham is nothing but crazy wise, it all adds up to one of the smartest and coolest movies to sprout from the fertile ground of 1970s cinema.



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Is it me, or does Jason Statham look really bored in this picture? Shouldn't someone give him someone to kick or punch?


Burn After Reading - After the landmark No Country For Old Men (2007), the Coens set the bar sky-high for the rest of their careers. But once the trailers began running for the hyperactive Burn After Reading, it was disappointingly obvious that their follow-up would at best only be a pleasant diversion (not one Projection Boother I've talked with was the least bit excited about BAR). It begs the question: was No Country a harmonic convergence, or is it Burn After Reading that's just a curio shop along the road to greatness? (Dex)

Death Race (2008)
The Duchess
Eagle Eye
Ghost Town
Hamlet 2
Pulse 3
Savage Grace
Traitor (12/19 release)
The Women (2008) (12/19 release)


"We have too many intellectuals who are afraid to use the pistol of common sense." - Sam Fuller

Pike Bishop takes a look at the Criterion release of Sam Fuller's underappreciated cult classic, White Dog:

White Dog
Directed by Samuel Fuller.
Released by Criterion.

When Sam Fuller’s film White Dog, a two fisted salvo against indoctrinated racism, began its limited released in 1982, it had already been guaranteed its commercial failure. As the film was nearing completion, word was getting out to the press that the film contained racist material; all the while the NAACP began threatening the inclusion of White Dog into their already planned, labor-related boycott of Paramount (the film’s production company). This kind of attention to one of his projects must have broken Fuller’s heart. If anybody involved would have taken the time to notice, they would have seen that throughout his entire career Fuller had used his movies to fight against racism. From the sight of an integrated platoon in The Steel Helmet to the African-American psych-ward patient who, driven mad by racism, thinks himself a Ku Kluxer in Shock Corridor, Fuller made his view on the subject very clear- racism was a disease, more specifically it was an American disease that passed from person to person not by heredity but by inculcation and intimidation.

The film White Dog was adapted from the biographical/fictional novel by Romain Gary about a stray German shepherd that he and his then wife, Jean Seberg, took in during the late sixties. They begin to realize that this dog, which they name Batka, is trained to attack African-Americans. Gary and Seberg decide to take the dog to an animal trainer for re-education but by the end of the book an African-American animal trainer, whose sympathy lies with the then prevalent black power movement, reprograms the dog to attack whites. This is where Fuller broke away from Gary’s book as he perceived the ending to be racist. Fuller viewed racism as racism, and the results would be the same no matter who was using it- madness and chaos.

In the film, Kristy McNichol plays the Jean Seberg stand-in, Julie Sawyer. After accidently hitting a white German shepherd on the road, Julie takes the dog into her home so she can nurse it back to heath while trying to find the dog’s original owners. While caring for the dog, Julie and her boyfriend Roland Grale (Jamison Parker playing the Romain Gary stand-in) begin to see habits in the dog that lead them to believe that it was trained as an attack dog. Julie, not wanting to put the dog down, takes it to an animal training ground, run by a trainer named Carruthers (Burl Ives), to deprogram the dog of its training. As Julie and Carruthers are talking, another of the ground’s trainers, an African-American by the name of Joe (Bob Minor), approaches and is instantly attacked by the dog. Carruthers, having dealt with this situation before, realizes that this dog is a “white dog”, a dog trained to attack black skin. Carruthers wants nothing to do with this dog but in the background watching is another African-American trainer named Keys, the main protagonist of the film played by Paul Winfield (who, just ten years earlier was in a very different film about a dog, Martin Ritt’s Sounder). Keys has a hypothesis that a dog once trained with racist hate can be untrained. He has tried to deprogram a white dog twice before but has failed. He now sees a new opportunity with Julie’s dog and spends the rest of the movie in psychological battle with the animal’s warped mind.

Samuel Fuller has rarely told a story subtly. The tools of his trade have always been the emotional directness of heightened melodrama, the bombastic use of visual metaphor and the art of a gut-punching hook line. He learned all of these tricks-of-the-trades from his days pounding the pavement as a yellow journalist. It is with this in mind that we can appreciate White Dog as Sam Fuller at his agitprop best. In one scene a character will spout, in full earnestness, “You’ve got a four-legged time bomb!” while in another, tension is built as a young African-American boy, innocently eating an ice cream cone, goes back inside a building, as we the audience see him barely escape the roaming gaze of the dog on the prowl. All of this could be seen as tawdry exploitation if it were not for the justified rage fueling the narrative of the film. Fuller had a belief in common sense, that ability a person has to choose the most justified course of action by weighing all of the presented facts and the points of view by those involved. To him it was common sense that racism was the festering disease at the heart of the American dream and it was time again for a little square talk on the subject. For his troubles he was rewarded with a film that most of the American population would not get a chance to see until well after his death.

The new Criterion disc of White Dog has an excellent transfer in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The colors are well represented but it must be said that this film is a low budget, late seventies film and has a look and feel that is particular to its time and circumstances (I just mention this because I have read some complaints online about how it looks like a made-for-TV movie and I feel that the viewer must keep certain things in perspective when watching a film like this. If you have an inability to see through certain technical limitations and view the film on its own terms, then this might not be the film for you).

The extras include:

• A video interview documentary with the producer Jon Davison, Fuller’s widow Christa Lang-Fuller and the films co-writer Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential).

• An on-screen print interview with the dog trainer Karl Lewis Miller.

• A Behind-the-scenes photo gallery.

• A booklet containing two essays (one by J. Hoberman and one by Armond White) and a piece written by Fuller with the gimmick being that he is interviewing the dog after the making of the film.

Also: a fun little Easter Egg can be found if you go to the interview doc titled “Four-Legged Time Bomb” in the extras and arrow down to Jon Davison’s name.


don't worry, denver - it's only a week 'till that new owen wilson and the big funny dog movie opens: denver premieres for 12/19

Will Smith's big puppy looks toward next week for cinema treats.

Pike Bishop sees nothing - nothing - for you to see this week.


Jim Carrey in Yes Man
Will Smith in Seven Pounds.
Tale of Despereaux.


friday classic movie blogging

Brazil. (1985). Directed by Terry Gilliam. Written by Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, Charles McKeown. Starring Jonathan Pryce, Robert DeNiro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Michael Palin, Ian Richardson, Peter Vaughan, Kim Greist, Jim Broadbent.

Dante was a sectarian and a mystic but he was right to reserve one of the fieriest corners of his inferno for those who, in a time of moral crisis, try to stay neutral.

--- Christopher Hitchens, 'Letters to a Young Contrarian.'


david lynch thursday!

The Cowboy and The Frenchman (Part 3). (1988.) Written and directed by David Lynch. Starring Harry Dean Stanton, Frederic Golchan, Jack Nance, Tracey Walter, Michael Horse.


get yr wish list on (***updated!***)

Gimme the loot!

(For those of you looking for our regularly scheduled Tuesday-DVD-releases post, you may go here. But really, unless you've been looking forward to Momma Mia! on DVD, there's nothing for you, nothing at all. Otherwise, check out what will make Christmas merry and bright for Boothers below)

Dear Santa:

We here at the Denver Projection Booth have been very good this year though there's been like zero movies to see. Even you, jolly old elf, would have to agree with my man Ice Cube when he said, "Fuck Hollywood."

But never mind all that. We have been very good, Santa, very, very good, despite all the shit you've handed us (that's right, you're not fooling anyone: we know you have something going with Jesus, Allah, Robert Rubin, the Bilderbergs, and the Mole People - one hand giveth, the other to taketh away), so we want things, see. Things you will bring us, or the will be no frenching mom. Dig?

Dex wants:

Chungking Express (Criterion): All the leaves are brown/ (all the leaves are brown)/ And the sky is grey!

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Seriously Ultimate Edition - Seriously. Ultimate. 'Nuff said.

Phantasm - 5 Disc Box Set - In the shape of one of the spheres, yo. One of the spheres.

Heathers: Limited Edition Boxed Set -
For many moviegoers of a certain age and disposition, Heathers was not only a quantum leap into coolness, but because it spoke directly to so many fans, a protective amulet to carry into adulthood as well. Alas, time has not been so kind to the cast of this 1989 cult classic: once a muse to art school and alt-rock kids, Winona Ryder just manages to continue to coast on the rep she built as Tim Burton's feminine ideal (Heathers might be her last original role), while drugs, booze, and domestic weirdness have reduced Christian Slater to picking up roles on the margins of the action and sci-fi genres, and screenwriter Daniel Waters (who also penned the underrated Batman Returns (1992) is mostly MIA. But the movie Heathers, for the most part, has managed to endure, though the cynicism of the last half of the film continues to be a huge drag that muddles the spirit it shows in it's first. While I'm still sweet on the flick, I'm not sure it deserves the super-fantastic collector's set treatment it gets here - separate making-of documentaries, a CD-ROM of the original ending, a "Big Fun" tee, and magnets for the high-school locker carrying case it comes in - but Americans do so enjoy needlessly gorging themselves during the holidays, and nostalgia isn't fattening.

Pike Bishop wants:

1.) Georges Melies: First Wizard of Cinema (1896-1913) - (Flicker Alley) - Region 1 US Box Set - If you have a taste for the fantastical in cinema, then you owe a debt of gratitude to Georges Melies. He started out his professional life as a stage magician but, after seeing a demonstration by the Lumiere Brothers of their cinematographe machine, Melies began making magically fantastic short films that he called “feeries”. The horror, sci-fi and fantasy genres, along with many of the optical and special effects used to create our modern day spectacles, were born in these short films. This 5-disc box contains most if not all of Melies existent films along with a documentary about the man by another filmmaker of the fantastique, Georges Franju.

2.) Intégrale Jacques Demy - (Cine-Tamaris) - Region 2 French Box Set with English Subs - Jacques Demy’s films, for the most part, are pure pleasure. His musicals like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and his fantasy films like Donkey Skin rank especially high. This box set of his complete works was put together with loving care by filmmaker Agnes Varda. It is available on her website, Cine-Tamaris.

3.) Naruse Box Set Volume One - (Masters of Cinema) Region 2 UK Box Set with English Subs - Naruse Mikio was a contemporary of Ozu Yasujiro, Mizoguchi Kenji and Gosho Heinosuke. From a layman’s point of view he may have a surface similarity to Ozu but at their respective best (for my money anyway) he was the better filmmaker of the two for being less overtly mannered by stylistic concerns and less reverential to Japan’s feudalistic hierarchy. This box set presents three of his most recognized films (Repast, Sound of the Mountain, and Flowing) and comes from the fine folks at Masters of Cinema.

4.) Shimizu Hiroshi Collection - Parts 1 & 2 - (Shochiku Home Video) Region 2 Japanese Box Set with English Subs - Shimizu Hiroshi was another of Ozu’s contemporaries who began his film career at Shochiku studios. Ozu, a close friend of and collaborator with Shimizu considered him to be a true master filmmaker. These box sets, from Shochiku Home Video, are the first English subtitled collections available. Shimizu’s works from both his silent and sound periods are represented.

Patrick wants:

Griffith Masterworks 2 (Kino Video): And Santa, please note that I have not yet received the Vol. 1 of this set that I asked for a few years ago. He is the Father of Cinema, after all.

The Last Laugh (fancy dee-lux version by Kino Video): Ahhh, Murnau. This shit's good, y'know? Emil Jannings is about as perfect a schlub as I can imagine - as good here as in Der Blaue Engel.

Nathalie Granger (Facets video): So, about this one, Santa. Here's the thing - John Waters once wrote about the impenetrable genius of the cinema of Ms. Marguerite Duras and I've never had a chance to see any of her work and I am suspicious that anyone is crazy enough to think they can make any money releasing them on DVD. So maybe I should just rent it, but with this nice, fancy package, I think I'll probably be enthralled and aggravated in equal amounts. There is, of course, a less fancy version, but would that really do her justice? Plus, Jeanne Moreau is in it - how bad could it possibly be?

Vampyr (Criterion) : Dreyer, another one of those brilliant silent-era guys. but this one's got sound. And vampires and creepy imagery and atmosphere out the wazoo. Amazing.

Busby Berkeley Collection Vol. 2 (Warner Home Video): Y'know Santa, I don't mean to look a gift horse in the mouth, but you still haven't gotten me the superior Vol. 1 that I asked for a while ago, but if you get me this one, I'll just let it slide.


a strikingly fierce day the excellent adventure of the matrix stood point break: denver premieres for 12/12

"Actually, Timmy, the thing is, it's a bit private..."

Is there a blogger alive who loves movies more than our man Pike Bishop? Here's his round-up of this week's openers in Denver:

Frost/Nixon- Scripted by Peter Morgan (The Last King of Scotland, The Queen, The Other Boleyn Girl) based on his own stage play and directed by Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man), Frost/Nixon is a dramatic take on the 1977 interview of disgraced former President Richard Nixon conducted by the British television personality David Frost. Nixon and his staff chose David Frost to do the interview knowing that his reputation was one of a non-confrontational lightweight. Their belief was that, through series of softball questions, Nixon could reassert his righteousness and begin to rehabilitate his public persona. This gambit might have worked for Nixon if it were not for the elephant in the room- Watergate. Conducted over twelve days, the Frost/Nixon interview produced 4 90-minute episodes showing the most secretive and guarded American president in history slowly slipping into the most candid. In this film adaptation, Frank Langella (Nixon) and Michael Sheen (Frost) reprise their roles from the stage production while actors Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon, Rebecca Hall and Oliver Platt fill out the second tier. If Ron Howard has proven himself too middle-of-the-road for you but are interested in the subject matter, then check out the DVD of the actual interview, Frost/Nixon: the Original Watergate Interviews, which was released last week. If you find yourself completely bored by all of this, but want to see Monty Python ripping into their old boss, David Frost- I mean “Timmy Williams” - then watch the Youtube clip. The film opens at the Landmark Theatre at Greenwood Village on Friday.

The Day the Earth Stood Still- This unnecessary remake is directed by Scott Derrickson whose past work includes The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Hellraiser: Inferno and stars Keanu Reeves. Do you need more proof that this will be a piece of shit? Alright chief, then how about we look at the Rotten Tomatoes rating for this thing? As of this morning, it stands at 24%. I think that this mouth breather over at Bloody-Disgusting.com gives us a good idea of who is in that 24%. If you don’t want to read it I’ll give you his best lines:

Something has always pissed me off about the original was Michael Rennie ‘s performance as Klaatu, an alien sent to Earth to save mankind from their magnetism to war. Klaatu I supposed to be over our feeble emotions, omnipotent if you will, yet he walks around Washington with his nose in the air completely arrogant and annoyingly cocky. He’s a flippin’ know-it-all and it makes absolutely no sense why he’s be the one to judge our society. Scott Derrickson and co. fix this problem in the remake where Keanu Reeves plays the news and improved Klaatu, who plays the role strikingly fierce.

Note to President-elect Barack Obama: Read the paragraph above and realize that our public school systems have failed us. Fix our schools before it is too late.

JCVD- Jean-Claude Van Damme takes a self reflexive look at his life as well as his career in this film and finds the human being underneath the veneer of a B-grade action star. Jean-Claude (playing a role that is the bizarro-world version of himself) returns to Brussels after losing a custody battle for his daughter in L.A. Here he is up to his neck in debt and having a hard time finding any worthwhile film work. In need of a cash wire transfer to pay off his lawyers, Van Damme enters a bank that is being held up and finds that he is caught in a Dog Day Afternoon-like hostage situation that is reminiscent of the plots from his straight-to-video movie career. JCVD is Jean-Claude Van Damme coming to terms with himself, and he supposedly gets right at the heart of the matter with a single shot, 10 minute monologue scene in which he knocks it out of the park with a partially improvised public atonement for his botched life. I think it was Richard Corliss that said it was the “finest, most scab-pulling” performance he saw at the Toronto Film Festival. I don’t think that any of Van Damme’s old action star peers (Segal, Dudikoff, Lundgren, Norris, or Stallone) could pull off such an act of self effacement with such ease in such a public way. So for that I give congratulations to “The Muscles from Brussels” for he has with one film moved away from being the easy punch line he once was. The film opens at the Mayan on Friday.

How About You- This 2007 Irish dramedy starring Vanessa Redgrave opens Friday at the Starz FilmCenter. Their synopsis reads:

How About You tells the story of Ellie (Hayley Atwell), a footloose and fearless young woman who is left in charge of a residential home owned and run by her older sister Kate (Orla Brady), over the Christmas period. Her youth and inexperience bring her into bitter conflict with the four grumpy old residents known as the “hardcore”: retired screen beauty Georgia (Vanessa Redgrave), spinster sisters Hazel (Imelda Staunton) and Heather (Brenda Fricker), and a reformed alcoholic judge, Donald (Joss Ackland). The film deals with the at times hilarious antics of these uncivilized seniors, the gradual solidarity that develops between the residents and Ellie and an unlikely romance.

Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine - This documentary about the influential sculptor, Louise Bourgeois, opens at the Starz FilmCenter on Friday. Their synopsis reads:

Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine is a cinematic journey inside the life and imagination of an icon of modern art. As a screen presence, Louise Bourgeois is magnetic, mercurial and emotionally raw. There is no separation between her life as an artist and the memories and emotions that affect her every day. Her process is on full display in this extraordinary documentary. As an artist, Louise Bourgeois has for six decades been at the forefront of successive new developments, but always on her own powerfully inventive and disquieting terms. In 1982, at the age of 71, she became the first woman to be honored with a major retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. In the decades since, she has created her most powerful and persuasive work that has been exhibited, studied and lectured on worldwide. Filmed with unparalleled access between 1993 and 2007, Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine is a comprehensive and dramatic documentary of creativity and revelation. It is an intimate, human and educational engagement with an artist’s world.

Returning to the Big Screen this week is Vicky Christina Barcelona. This film opened early in the year but now that it is getting some general recognition from the Golden Globes and specific notice for Penelope Cruz from the L.A. and New York film circles, Woody Allen’s third European venture, Vicky Christina Barcelona, is being trotted out again for the obligatory Oscar race. That said, it is supposed to be the most enjoyable of Allen’s recent output and Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz are said to put in notable performances.

Also of note, a film spotlighted last week, A Christmas Tale by Arnaud Desplechin, moves over to the Starz FilmCenter on Friday, December 12th.

sympathy for mr. boyle

Trainstationspotting, Mumbai-style.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008): Brit director Danny Boyle's latest would be easy to hate not so much for what the movie is - a bouncy, colorful travelogue of Mumbai's back alleys with a silly, condescending boy-meets-girl yarn wrapped loosely around scenes of outdoor toilets, all-night cafes, empty hotels, and train stations - but for who the audience is: the sloppy, cringe-inducing dance number at the end of movie, meant to mirror both the frenetic energy of the first third of the movie as well as pay homage to the Bollywood song-n-dance epics Slumdog unsuccessfully attempts to filter through Boyle's very Western sensibilities, was capped by applause from the Esquire's Friday night crowd; I have to guess that to clap at the end of movie so underserving of an ovation was something they heard on NPR that audiences were doing, and wanted to make sure that other listener-members knew they were hip to the scene.

But whatever. Surprisingly enough for a love fantasy, Slumdog Millionaire ultimately suffers from an excess of plot: Boyle was never very good at resolving the situations his films set up, and his movies tend to screech to a halt when they're required to slow down and deal with stuff like characters talking things out. Trainspotting (1996) and 28 Weeks Later (2003) managed to be so entertaining because Boyle almost never takes his foot off the gas - especially in the latter, there's always a reason to keep looking over your shoulder, and Boyle movies are great fun when you have to sprint along with his characters. And through the first third of Slumdog, there's a lot of excitement (and a whole lot of running), but as the story eases up and we're supposed to settle into sitting and watching someone answer questions on a television game show, the eye and the mind begin to wander. A big problem with Slumdog Millionaire is that Boyle is aping the hallucinatory style of Bollywood film scenarios, but as Pike Bishop pointed out to me afterward, Bollywood pics give everybody - characters, filmmakers, audiences - a chance to dream outlandish dreams. And this unwillingness to allow Slumdog's cast to untether themselves from the oppressiveness of their lives makes the experience intensely patronizing. Boyle is content to keep his characters down in the slums, slumdogs that they are - and the audience too, who I'm sure found all the sights very charming. At the very least, he's given us the opening to every hip-hop album for the next ten years ("Ladies and gentlemen, what a playa!")

friday classic film blogging

Raging Bull. (1980.) Directed by Martin Scorsese. Written by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin. Starring Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty.

There might not be a better collaboration between a director and star in the modern era of film than the one between Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull. The P.T. Anderson-Daniel Day Lewis teaming in There Will Be Blood (2007) comes close, but Lewis' brutal, focused performance outstrips the rest of TWBB, which loses its way in the forest of Anderson's own filmic obssessions. Scorsese's (and let's be honest, DeNiro's) Raging Bull is something else entirely - it pulses with a mad energy, a mix of the director's appreciation for the avant garde and pulp fixations, a truly original piece of work.


david lynch thursday!

The Cowboy and The Frenchman (Part 2). (1988.) Written and directed by David Lynch. Starring Harry Dean Stanton, Frederic Golchan, Jack Nance, Tracey Walter, Michael Horse.


are you there, god? it's me, timothy carey

Tim Carey rocked for your sins.

The World's Greatest Sinner (1962): A recent piece of high weirdness from TCM Underground, TWGS was written and directed by character heavy Timothy Carey, who appeared as a machine gunning hep cat in Stanley Kubrick's The Killing (1956), a condemned French grunt in Paths of Glory (1956), a standby in the Cassavetes' films The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) and Minnie and Moskowitz (1971), and uber-creepy bad guy "Lord High n' Low" in the excellent Monkees' vehicle, Head (1968).

Carey steers the arc of his first (and I think only) film on a simple, upward slope, starring as Clarence Hilliard, a mid-level insurance exec who shrugs off his workaday life, puts on a fake goatee, and becomes a sort of Nietzschian presidential aspirant and rockabilly singer (the main plank of his campaign has something to do with uncovering the secret of eternal life, though the only detail Carey lets slip touches on universal healthcare, so maybe Ronald Reagan was right after all). Along the way, Clarence/Carey rejects the existence of God, breaks his wife's heart by sleeping with a lot of big-hipped, sweater-wearing rock n' roll/presidential groupies, and slaps his daughter around while someone (presumably Old Scratch) occasionally narrates a voiceover celebrating Carey's meglomania and rockin' groove. The World's Greatest Sinner isn't a great film, or even a competent one by any stretch of the imagination, and I could never figure out what it was Carey was trying to say. However, he's so drunk on the creative process, and the movie is (or was) obviously so dear to him that it manages to teeter around on its own knobby legs, albeit in a I-got-home-from-the-bar-very-late-and-this-was-on-television-and-could-not-stop-watching-for-a-minute kind of way.

get yr release on

Do you know what would make this picture even better? Absolutely nothing.

DVDs streeting the week of 12/9:

Another Gay Sequel

Bad Boys (1983) (reissue) – No, not the stupid Lawrence/Smith vehicle, but a nice, gritty slice of juvenile delinquency starring a young Sean Penn and Esai Morales as rival street thugs. Penn accidentally runs down Morales's little brother after a robbery and Morales rapes Penn's girlfriend (Ally Sheedy) to get revenge. When they both end up in the same juvie facility, you know a showdown is coming and the rest of the film is spent building that conflict. Meanwhile, the adults try to show them the error of their ways to little avail as other inmates start to take sides. It's a low budget little morality play, not unlike any number of gangster and crime dramas that came before it, convincingly written and acted. Direction by Rick Rosenthal just keeps out of of the way of the energy of actors - too much stylization (which I doubt Rosenthal really has in him) would ruin it, so it's good that no auteur was given this assignment. (Patrick)

Chamber of Horrors/Brides of Fu Manchu (double feature)
The Dark Knight
Dona Flor & Her Two Husbands
The Early Works of Cheryl Dunye
Europa (Criterion Collection directed by Lars Von Trier)
God & Gays
Hair: Let the Sun Shine In
Three Short Films By Werner Herzog (The Dark Glow of the Mountains/ Ballad of the Little Soldier/ Precautions Against Fanatics)
A Hole in a Fence
Horton Hears a Who (2008)

Irma Vep - I see that this is the "essential edition" of Oliver Assayas' 1996 meta-comedy, which features Assayas' real-life-wife Maggie Cheung starring as herself. Cheung's cast in a remake of the (totally awesome) silent French serial Les Vampires, reconceived by a bunch of neurotic French filmmakers, and though I would never in a million years knock a film that would put one of the world's loveliest actresses in black leather, but Irma Vep is merely a sweet, minor note; a nerdy movie for movie nerds. (Dex)

It Happened One Night (1934) (reissue)
Killing Hitler: The True Story of the Valkyrie Plot
Man on Wire
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) (reissue)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) (reissue)
Murder Island/Die Zombiejager

Murnau, Borzage, and Fox Box Set - This is the biggest release of the year for fans of classic Hollywood. You get the surviving first film (Sunrise) and third film (City Girl) of three that F.W. Murnau directed for Fox Studios. Both of these film come from newly struck remasters and as a bonus, Sunrise is presented in two formats- the first is the domestic, Movietone version and the second is the European, silent version. The second film that Murnau did for Fox, 4 Devils, is considered lost but is covered by this set with the documentary Murnau’s 4 Devils: Traces of a Lost Film by Janet Bergstrom and a 130 page soft cover book. Frank Borzage, whose films make up the bulk of this box, was a visually adventurous filmmaker interested in the promise of love, both human and divine, and our capacity to attain it. In this sense, he was a more optimistic and light hearted filmmaker than Murnau who, in his own films, liked to poke around at the dark corners of human existence. With this in mind it is easy to see why Borzage's films, as time has gone on, have not received the attention that Murnau's films have had. I would not be surprised though, if a re-evaluation begins to take place after this release as ten of Borzage's films under the Fox banner are presented here (Lazybones, Street Angel, 7th Heaven, Lucky Star, They Had to See Paris, Liliom, Song O' My Heart, Bad Girl, After Tomorrow, and Young America) along with a reconstruction of 1929's The River. Struck from the best prints available, this is the best chance ever on DVD to get a comprehensive take on Borzage during his prime and to discover or rediscover some of the most beautiful films from late silent and early sound era. (Pike Bishop)

Passion and Power
The Quare Fellow
Resident Evil 3-pack
Roscoe’s House of Chicken N Waffles
School of Rock (re-release with digital copy included)
Sex & the City: The Movie (Ultimate Collector’s Edition)
Teenage Angst
You Can’t Take It With You (reissue)
Zoolander (re-release with digital copy included)


and after the nukes, the only thing left will be roaches and music biopics: denver premieres for 12/5

Jeffrey Wright and Adrien Brody watch the approaching mushroom cloud, confident in the knowledge they will outlast us all.

Our man in Cap Hill Pike Bishop boldly goes so you don't have to:

Cadillac Records- By turning the colorful lives of American R&B, Blues, Country and Rockabilly icons into so many portraits in beige, Hollywood has, for the last thirty years or so, worked hard to Disneyfy the history of our country’s musical heritage with the dreaded subgenre of the music biopic. Due to the fact that most of these movies are written and directed by Baby Boomers (or their sycophantic children), it is hardly surprising to note then, that an insidious undercurrent in all of these biopics is the idea that the music of say a feisty hillbilly hero or a urban/rural negro bluesman will soon find its way to a young and hip white kid from the city (read: suburb) and influence the most perfect form of musical expression ever- Rock and Roll, preferably the late 60s British variety. So when we watch the trailer for the new film Cadillac Records and a see the snippet of the young Rolling Stones approaching the nonplused Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright) at the door of a South Side bar and tell him, “We are big fans. We named our band after one of your songs… ” we know in what context the filmmakers want us to view the characters up on the screen. They might as well have had some classic rock dork stand in front of the actors, point and say, “Psssst. That’s Muddy Waters. He made Rock and Roll possible!” To that end, Cadillac Records will do the same for some of the Chess recording artists as say, What’s Love got To Do With It did for (Ike and) Tina Turner or Ray did for Ray Charles or Walk the Line did for Johnny Cash- it will push a couple more best-of compilation albums out the door to the curious only to be brought back again some time later as used-bin fodder for cash or trade.

The stunt casting (and the thinking behind it):

Beyonce Knowles as Etta James (She does what she wants because she is the producer and don’t you forget it.)

Mos Def as Chuck Berry (This one is obvious- He’s the Chuck Berry of Hip-Hop.)

Cedric the Entertainer as Willie Dixon (He’s fat. Get it, Willie Dixon was fat too.)

Eric Bogosian as Alan Freed (He wrote and starred in Talk Radio so he’s perfect for the role of a disc jockey!)

Tony Bentley as Alan Lomax (Well he played Hal B. Wallis, the guy that produced Elvis’ first movie, in that Made-for-TV Elvis movie. Muddy Waters is the Elvis of Blues. So why don’t we get this guy to play Alan Lomax, the guy that produced Muddy’s first field recording. It would be like karma or something.)

The rest of the cast:

Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters
Adrien Brody as Leonard Chess
Gabrielle Union as Geneva Wade
Columbus Short as Little Walter
Eamonn Walker as Howlin' Wolf
Kevin Mambo as Jimmy Rogers
Valence Thomas as James Cotton

The Punisher: War Zone- When a comic book movie is dumped onto the market at either end of the summer release schedule, an alarm should go off in your head that says “crap movie.” If you learn that said comic book movie is a 2nd time reboot (as in a third stand-alone movie, for you kids without the math skillz) of a franchise whose only rewards are watching rounds of ammo being fired into the bad guy’s faces and some wicked cool ‘splosions, then that alarm should no longer be necessary. From here on out you are on your own. The word out in the intranets is that The Punisher: War Zone is nerdy hipster manna in that it is so, so very bad that it is good. I love the first line of Roger Ebert’s review where he writes, “You used to be able to depend on a bad film being poorly made. No longer.” There is a sense of pathos and of fear in his proclamation, almost like he has seen what’s coming over the horizon and knows that it can’t be stopped.

Antarctica- Opening at the Starz FilmCenter is this dramedy from Israel. The synopsis they give reads:

Director Yair Hochner gives us a wacky comedy that ignores politics altogether while focusing on its characters’ domestic and romantic problems. And no one has more problems than gay siblings Shirley and Omer. Omer is almost thirty and still hasn’t found himself — or the man of his dreams. A series of disastrous blind dates hasn’t helped. Shirley is a little younger and has already nabbed her dream woman, Michal, owner of the hippest café in town (and Shirley’s boss). But the thought of settling down scares Shirley, who wonders if she’s ready to give up her long-held plan of traveling to Antarctica.

As the siblings sort through their feelings and prepare for adulthood, friends and relatives chime in with their advice and problems of their own. No one has more of either than their “Jewish mother from hell,” Shoshanna, played, in what Hochner describes as a tribute to both the films of John Waters and the late great Divine, by Yoam Huberman, one of Israel’s most talented drag artists.

They Killed Sister Dorothy- Also opening at Starz FilmCenter is this documentary. The synopsis they give reads:

They Killed Sister Dorothy chronicles the legal proceedings that followed the execution-style murder of Sister Dorothy Stang. At seventy-three, the Catholic nun and activist had lived in Brazil for thirty years, collaborating with the government to establish sustainable development in a remote corner of the Amazon. But along the way, she had made enemies among the ranchers who stood to benefit from the exploitation of the rainforest and its natural resources. In 2005, she was shot six times at point-blank range. Two men were arrested for the killing, but it quickly became clear that her death was part of a much greater conspiracy.

A Christmas Tale- Opening last Friday but continuing on this week is A Christmas Tale, the critically-praised French film about a dysfunctional family gathering together for Christmas after the family matriarch learns she is dying from leukemia. It looks like the ensemble cast of character actors is the big draw for this film along with the pleasant structure of vignette-like scenes adding up to an emotionally satisfying whole. It stars Catherine Deneuve, Jean-Paul Roussillon, Mathieu Amalric, Anne Consigny, Melvil Poupaud, and Laurent Capelluto. Directed by Arnaud Desplechin (Kings and Queen)


friday classic film blogging

A Star is Born. (1954.) Directed by George Cukor. Written by Moss Hart. Starring Judy Garland, James Mason, Jack Carson, Charles Bickford, Tommy Noonan.

A few Christmases ago - more than a few, actually, close to ten now - a couple of friends showed me a clip from the Judy Garland television show, one where she sings a duet with Barbara Streisand, and they told me to watch carefully: during the song, when the two of them get into it and area really supposed to be belting the tune, Judy clutches at Streisand's hand in panic, and you can see young Barbara's eyes widen when she realizes just how frightened Garland is.

Even after that, for me Judy Garland was still a camp figure, a deeply talented but sadly pathetic creature, just the embodiment of a Hollywood legend, the fallen actress, the kind that Patty Duke lampooned in Valley of the Dolls (1967). It wasn't until I saw A Star is Born a few years ago that I got a fuller picture of who Garland was. "Vicki Lester" isn't Garland, per se, but you can tell that it's more than just a part.


david lynch thursday!

The Cowboy and The Frenchman (Part 1). (1988.) Written and directed by David Lynch. Starring Harry Dean Stanton, Frederic Golchan, Jack Nance, Tracey Walter, Michael Horse


punk is dead

You don't get it, do you dude? Blown-out wigs live, man.

What We Do is Secret (2008): I really can't make an honest appraisal of this film, since the first six minutes were so fucking godawful that I had turn it off. So bad, so very, very bad: those six minutes were so bad, Carl fucking Laemmle should've come out at the beginning to warn me. Those six minutes were so bad, it's just the sort of obscenely medieval shit you'd find black site interrogators at Guantanamo and Bagram Air Base passing back and forth: waterboarding has nothing on those brutal six minutes. Oh, so bad, so so bad.

Maybe the remaining 86 ticks are redeemed somehow, I don't know, but I wish you the very best of luck in finding out.

get yr release on

I'm guessing this is probably the only thing worth seeing in Wanted.

Today's DVD releases, yo:

Casablanca (Ultimate Collector’s edition)
C.G. Jung’s World Within
The Day the Earth Stood Still (special edition)
Dr. Katz: Best of Dr. Katz
I, Claudius
Lower Learning
My Father, My Lord
Narnia: Prince Caspian
Pleasure for Sale

Seeding of a Ghost What was initially intended as the third part of the Black Magic (Gong Tau) series, Seeding of a Ghost is another of the timely, gross-out exploitation flicks that the Shaw Studios were putting out in the late 70's to compete with the influx of foreign exploitation films in the Chinese market. The basic story is of a taxi cab driver who enlists the help of a witch doctor to exact revenge on the playboy who was having an affair with his wife and the street punks who raped and killed her. I would only recommend this film to exploitation fan as the set pieces range from a brutal rape/murder to brain consumption/worm regurgitation to necrophilia (of sorts). A censored version of this film was released by Celestial Pictures in Hong Kong a couple of years ago with a running time of 86 minutes. The new U.S. release is said to be a 90 minute cut of the movie. Having seen the film, I doubt that those extra four minutes are used to add character development. (Pike Bishop)

She Likes Girls 3
Step Brothers
Teenage Angst

White Dog (Criterion Collection directed by Samuel Fuller) - Love his stuff when it's not mucked up by the studios too much, love the premise of this one, and given that Criterion has put their stamp on it, it's probably pretty damn good. But we can't just pick Criterions every week, now can we? (Patrick)

X-Files: I Want to Believe - Six years have passed since one of the best American televisions shows of the 1990s limped off televisions screens to die - diagnosis: bitter infighting between series creator and Fox, but notably, a drastic drop in the quality of writing that moved the show's direction from biting critique to wishy-washy melodrama - so in many ways, the series' ingnominious end required a big screen finale. Carter and Fox appear to have patched things up, and so and thus, I Want to Believe locates David Duchovony's Fox Mulder doing that Ted Kaczynski thing and Gilliam Anderson's Dana Scully settling in as a physician; despite this shaking off of their shared histories as FBI agents and lovers, the pair's expertise are again required to solve a slew of disappeared women. The film apparently did not please critics hopped up on Iron Man's sugary thrills and waiting for Brand Dark Knight's domination, which of course probably means it's worth the time. (Dex)