Archive for October 2010

A Halloween History Lesson






Forget Saw I-III, Hostel I-II, Halloween I-whatever and anything with Freddy Krueger, bad backlighting and a chainsaw. This Halloween, go back to the classics.

As far as I am concerned, the horror genre began with Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari a.k.a. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) a German silent classic that is best known for its Expressionist sets (German Expressionist to be exact). Dr. Caligari plays the first true mad doctor/scientist who exhibits a somnambulist (sleepwalker) who predicts the future which of course include murders, madness and mayhem. It is considered by film historians (Martin Scorsese as one) to be one of the best of films of all time and the first to introduce the ending with a twist.








The wild, warped and perhaps dizzy-inducing sets were wildly applauded for their Expressionist style and a template for horror films to come. Flat panels and floors of painted horizontal and vertical lines, distorted camera angles,  inventive use of shadows, costumes and makeup (all in stark black and white) create the menacing atmosphere. Street lamps that hang askew and long twisted alleyways that fall into each other are just a few of the elements that make the production design unique.





Edward Scissorhands was said to be influenced by Caligari's style

And if you can't find the film at Blockbuster (pretty sure it's not in the Red Box outside of your local Walgreens), you can always resort to The Shining or The Exorcist two films that are always on my top ten list.

The Shining


The Exorcist

Happy Halloween!

Cave of Forgotten Dreams


Werner Herzog's latest documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, is about the Chauvet Caves, the site in France where the earliest examples of human painting have been discovered. It's a 3D film, of all things, Herzog's first experiment with that technology, and it's going to be screening at the beginning of November as part of the DOC NYC festival. I've reviewed the film for the House Next Door, so follow the link below for my thoughts about Herzog's approach to this material, the way he uses 3D for good and ill, and the characteristically Herzogian themes that he brings to the documentary.

Continue reading at the House Next Door

Huge update! Took long enough...

Sorry for the delay, but here's a selection of new stuff we've acquired for your viewing pleasure lo these last few weeks. There is a ton of great stuff, from comic book action to comedy both vulgar and innocent, to dramatic dramas. And some documentaries. And a couple of classic movie franchises finally coming to the glory that is Blu-ray!

Click on any pretty picture box below to link to a review or trailer or some sort of special surprise related to that film. And remember to join os on both Twitter and Facebook to get in on all the action. Like occasional updates!

Get Him to the Greek (Rated/Unrated)
(Widescreen)
Rated: R
Also available on Brand new Blu-ray!
Get Him to the Greek (Rated/Unrated)

Iron Man 2
(Widescreen)
Rated: PG13
Also available on Stark-tastic Blu-ray!
Iron Man 2
The Girl Who Played with Fire
(Widescreen)
Rated: R
Also available on smokin' hot Blu-ray!
The Girl Who Played with Fire
Please Give
(Widescreen)
Rated: R
Also available on pleasing, giving Blu-ray!
Please Give
Predators
(Widescreen)
Rated: R
Also available on non-Arnie Blu-ray!
Predators
How to Train Your Dragon
(Widescreen)
Rated: PG
Also available on Dragon fired Blu-ray!
How to Train Your Dragon
I Am Love
(Widescreen)
Rated: R
Also available on Swinton-alicious Blu-ray!
I Am Love
Dollhouse: Season 2 (4 Discs)
(Widescreen)
Rated: NR
Also available on Dushku-tastic Blu-ray!
Dollhouse: Season 2 (4 Discs)
Babies
(Widescreen)
Rated: PG


Babies
You Don't Know Jack
(Widescreen)
Rated: TV14
You Dont Know Jack
Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy (3 Discs) (Blu-Ray)
(Widescreen)
Rated: PG
Finally available on McFly-tastic Blu-ray!

Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy (3 Discs) (Blu-ray)
Frozen
Rated: R
Also available on chilly Blu-ray!
Frozen
Party Down: Season Two
Rated: NR

Party Down: Season Two
The Killer Inside Me
Rated: R
Also available on Killer Blu-ray!
The Killer Inside Me
Alien Anthology (6 Discs) (Blu-Ray)
(Widescreen)
Rated: R
Finally on chest-bursting Blu-ray!

Alien Anthology (6 Discs) (Blu-ray)
Winter's Bone
(Widescreen)
Rated: R
Also available on edge-of seat Blu ray!

Winters Bone
Sex and the City 2
(Widescreen)
Rated: R
Also available on Cougar-riffic Blu-ray!

Sex and the City 2
Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky
(Widescreen)
Rated: R

Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky
The Trotsky Rated: NR
Also on Cancon-tastic Blu-ray!

The Trotsky
Jonah Hex
(Widescreen)
Rated: PG13
Also available on Fox-alicious Blu-ray!
Jonah Hex
Splice
(Widescreen)
Rated: R
Also available on scientastical Blu-ray!


Splice
Beauty and the Beast (Diamond Edition)
(Widescreen)
AMG Rating:
Rated: G
Also available on beastly Blu-ray!

Beauty and the Beast (Diamond Edition) (3 Discs) (Blu-Ray/Dvd)
Leaves of Grass
Rated: R




Leaves of Grass
Grindhouse (Special Edition) (2 Discs)
(Widescreen)
Rated: R
Also available on Machete-tastic Blu-ray!

Grindhouse (Special Edition) (2 Discs) (Blu-Ray)
The Human Centipede
Rated: NR
Also available on hungry Blu-ray!
The Human Centipede
30 Days of Night: Dark Days
(Widescreen)
Rated: R
Also available on bloody Blu-ray!


30 Days of Night: Dark Days
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?
Rated: R







My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?


Movie Milk Carton Alerts....

Last week I was wondering what happened to a certain film I'd written about a couple years ago. It was called "Frankie And Alice" (horrible title) and was to star Halle Berry as a woman with dual personalities, one of which was a white racist. Interesting concept, but when I saw the stills from the film, it looked like typical Halle fare; perfectly awful.

Right after I wondered what happened, I see an update from Tambay on Shadow And Act. Yes, old girl pulled the movie out of the drawer, and did it to be considered for an Oscar.

Alrighty then.


I don't want to talk about that movie really, but about other films that I wrote about and wondered what happened to....a couple I was actually looking forward to, like:

The "Martin" reunion on the big screen. Everyone would probably ask Martin why he now looks like a Macy's Thanksgiving Parade balloon. (wasn't looking forward to that one by the way)


The multiple Sammy Davis Jr. biopics, one starring Don Cheadle, one starring Andre 3000, and one starring Elijah Kelley. And where is Elijah Kelley? He was the "it" Black dude for exactly one minute.


Beyonce aka Beyaki playing Eartha Kitt. To which I say: bwahhahahahaha!!


The very unasked for sequel to "Four Brothers".


Jaime Foxx playing Mike Tyson in a biopic.


Beyaki playing Angela Davis in a biopic. To which I say: bwahhahahahaha!!


Wesley Snipes playing James Brown in a biopic (I'm seeing a pattern here).


Will Smith and Denzel Washington in a remake of "Uptown Saturday Night" (which I pray never sees the light of day).


Mos Def and Erykah Badu in a film that was described thustly:

Mos Def and Erykah Badu have signed on to star in the indie drama 'Bobby Zero'; a film focused upon the life of fictional struggling artist Bobby Zero as he hits rock bottom before going corporate with a job in advertising. Badu will play his girlfriend who is afflicted with agoraphobia.

Lots of questions. No answers.

Thursday's Track: Mount Eerie "Between Two Mysteries"


This is a trial run for a potential new series in which I upload a track I like and write about it. If people are interested, let me know in the comments and I'll keep the series going. I hope that this series will elicit some conversation about the songs and artists chosen. Although this site will still always be primarily about film, I also enjoy writing about music and haven't done enough of it lately. The first entry in the series is dedicated to one of the most important songwriters of the last decade or so, Phil Elverum of the Microphones and Mount Eerie.

"Between Two Mysteries" is a key track on Mount Eerie's bleak masterpiece Wind's Poem, an album inspired by black metal, by David Lynch's Twin Peaks, and by singer Phil Elverum's year of living in an isolated cabin in the Scandanavian wilds. This song makes the Twin Peaks influence explicit by cleverly interpolating snatches of the droning, eerie melody from Angelo Badalamenti's music for that series. This unsettling tune is juxtaposed against a propulsive guitar figure and hints of vibraphone accents, while Elverum's hushed vocals drift atop the dense, layered music. Elverum has always been interested in nature, in the elements, writing his psychological and emotional trials onto the harsh, cold expanse of an unblinking, uninterested natural world. His lyrics often suggest humanity's encounter with the incomprehensibility of the universe, which is why towering mountains, purifying flames and icy winds recur again and again in his imagery. Here he sings: "The town rests in the valley beneath twin peaks, buried in space/ What goes on up there in the night?" The lyrics turn around such ambiguous questions and such charged images; the "twin peaks" might be mountains dwarfing a settlement, or they might be a proper noun referring to Lynch's warped rural landscape.

This song, a delicate gem positioned amidst the at-times blistering assault of Wind's Poem as a whole, evokes sonically as well as lyrically that fragile beacon of civilization nestled within the chilly wilderness. Other songs on this album use waves of ferocious guitar distortion to evoke the roar and rage of the wind, buffeting Elverum's murmuring voice until he seems lost and afraid. "Between Two Mysteries" suggests a shelter from the storm, a respite from nature's awe-inspiring fearsomeness, even if that foreboding hum underpinning everything hints at darker ideas. For this reason, the song works best in the context of Wind's Poem as a whole, and I'd recommend that anyone who likes this song should certainly check out the full album. But even in isolation, this is a remarkable example of Elverum's rich, allusive, deeply affecting songwriting.

The Social Network


“This is OUR time” says Sean Parker, played by Justin Timberlake, in a key scene in THE SOCIAL NETWORK. This film is definitely the film of OUR time. It captures, with great skill and precision, the new world ahead of us, where the ‘nerds’ and ‘geeks’ control the social networks that we all use and that define our lives, and the old rules don’t apply. But some things are always the same.

An traditional tale of the American dream, complete with ambition, greed, betrayal, sex, and men of great vision, THE SOCIAL NETWORK is one of the seminal movies about the capitalist system, the way CITIZEN KANE was in the 1940s or NETWORK in the 1970s or even THE INSIDER in the 1990s. It works so brilliantly because, like the films referenced above, it brings top-level screenwriters with complete command of their craft in touch with accomplished, even masterful directors for a cinematic marriage made in heaven.

Sorkin’s signature dialogue sizzles against a perfectly controlled and beautifully photographed backdrop, courtesy of Fincher’s near-perfect directorial skills. The context, our modern, networked world, is so meta as to become one with the audience. Eisenberg’s Zuckberg, real or not, represents the Bill Gates-sation of the western world, where command of the right algorithm is enough to create one of the planet’s largest fortunes. This realisation, that technological capitalism, at the beginning of this new century, knows no bounds and takes no prisoners, is both frightening and exhilarating.

Most films I watch make a definite and concrete impression on me, and I can feel my opinion of them being formed as I see them - THE SOCIAL NETWORK unpacked itself in my brain little by little, like a Trojan virus slowly but completely dominating my movie-centric brain. I left the screening confused and baffled, and throughout the evening realised the different levels at which it had affected me. I am writing this review and I can sense more meanings rolling out even as I type.

This film will require multiple viewings, but I have no desire to see it anytime soon. A masterpiece that will be required viewing for decades to come, this is the film of the year. Move over, BLACK SWAN.

Rendezvous In Paris


Rendezvous In Paris is one of Eric Rohmer's episodic films, like his sadly unknown 4 Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle. This is a triptych of three stories set in Paris, with the concept of the rendezvous as the driving force and structural foundation of all three. The three stories concern two-timers and cheaters, and revolve around O. Henryesque ironies and coincidences, the stories marked by cute twists and wry reversals that mask the more quietly emotional subcurrents running through all three tales. These are simple, even stereotypical stories — one girl discovers her boyfriend is cheating, another cheats on her boyfriend with an older man, and a painter clumsily juggles two women who aren't interested in him — told with the directness and playfulness that Rohmer typically brings to his work. It is a light film, even minor, in the context of Rohmer's career as a whole, but its simplicity is also a virtue. The dialogue, as usual in Rohmer, is refreshingly open and eloquent: Rohmer's characters don't always say what they mean, or even know what they mean, but they always speak in ways that reveal their souls, whether intentionally or not. Rohmer seems to have a profound belief in the power of talk, even when it's idle banter or lies.

In the first of the film's three stories, Esther (Clara Bellar) becomes obsessed with the idea, mentioned in passing by an admirer, that her boyfriend Horace (Antoine Basler) is seeing another girl on the side. The rendezvous here is an idée fixe for Esther: she's told that Horace meets another girl at a certain café at 7:00 on the evenings when he's not with Esther. After introducing this structuring idea, Rohmer allows the plot to meander along, with Esther's obsession with this supposed meeting always percolating subtly in the background. She tries to study for a test, confesses her worries to a friend, and then indulges a playful flirtation with a man (Mathias Mégard) she meets in an outdoor market, and all the while she's thinking about Horace's supposed meeting with another girl.

The scene where Esther flirts in the marketplace is a masterful piece of staging. As Esther walks along in the foreground of the shot, turning her head this way and that to look at the various stalls in the market, the man trails along behind her, telling her that he has a dentist's appointment and wants to pass some pleasurable time with her beforehand. Rohmer's camera drifts along with the pair as they walk, capturing the delicate struggle between them as the man flirts and tries to charm her, while she maintains a pose of faux-aloofness, pretending to be absorbed by the sights of the market around her, hardly ever even looking directly at the man who's strolling just behind her. It's a game, and a fun game to watch, this jockeying for position within the frame, this struggle to get the upper hand in a game of romance and flirtation. Rohmer captures the little details — Esther's studied air of casualness offset by a charmingly genuine smile, the way she keeps subtly cutting off her would-be suitor, preventing him from walking exactly next to her — that characterize these games between men and women, the games that are the subject of so many of Rohmer's films.

The games continue as Esther sets a fake date for the same café that Horace is rumored to frequent, a date she really has no intention of keeping. But when her wallet is stolen and then returned by a stranger named Aricie (Judith Chancel), who also has a date at that same café, it becomes obvious that Esther is meant to be at that meeting at 7:00, just as it becomes obvious to the audience what the ironic twist is going to be. The denouement is no less delightful for its obviousness and contrivance, though. It's a cutesy twist, a pat irony, but Rohmer uses it as a way of probing how the seemingly light games that men and women play with each other in love disguise deeper reservoirs of feeling. Esther plays off her confrontation with Horace as a game at first, acting as though she doesn't know him, letting herself be introduced as an old friend by Aricie, hiding bits of coded malice in her superficially playful patter. But it's obvious how much she's hurt, how shaken she is by this betrayal, and finally she can't hide behind the games anymore, and storms away. It's fitting that the final irony is also hurtful: she leaves without fulfilling her date with the man from the market, who shows up just after the drama has played out, looking around expectantly and hesitantly, already fearing the disappointment of the girl not showing up. These games of love, Rohmer suggests, are not the laughing matter that we sometimes pretend they are.


The middle story of this triptych also deals with unfaithful lovers, although from the opposite perspective: a woman (Aurore Rauscher) meets with a somewhat older man (Serge Renko) in parks around Paris, cheating on a longtime boyfriend who she almost thinks of as her husband. Rohmer's sense of geography, his attention to the nuances of place, is on full display here, as the two lovers meet in one park after another, always searching for novelty and "poetry" as they get to know one another and try to negotiate their clandestine relationship. They always meet in public, because the woman doesn't want to risk going too far by visiting his apartment, and as a result their relationship exists only in public, in parks where they walk with arms wrapped around each other, or kiss on benches in secluded areas, or playfully trot from place to place. Their conversation is at times banal, just idle chit-chat, at times touching on the deeper issues of love and intimacy that concern their relationship and the woman's continuing but increasingly loveless relationship with her other boyfriend.

The two lovers are unnamed, credited only as "elle" and "lui," suggesting that they are archetypes, paradigms of the dueling negotiations between men and women as they try to form relationships. They lie to one another, in small ways, telling each other conflicting stories about their desires and their feelings, never quite forming a solid bond: she's leading him on, keeping him at a distance, while he wants more but seems disappointed when she finally offers it. It's as though their relationship is perfect within the limited confines they set for it, and outside of that narrow purview it will inevitably collapse. As they slowly work towards discovering this truth, Rohmer revels in the beauty of the Parisian parks they visit, surrounding these hesitant lovers in rich, vibrant green hues that seem to enfold them at first, and which are increasingly replaced by bare trees and paths strewn with browning leaves as fall leads into the winter chill. Rohmer has always had a great feel for the seasons, around which he built a four-film series late in his career, and here he manages to film the chilly air, the coldness that makes these lovers want to cuddle closer on damp benches.

In the end, for their last tryst, the lovers play at being tourists in Paris, pretending that they've arrived for a sightseeing trip, and the metaphor of tourism in a subtle way comments on their own relationship. There's a sense of the temporary, of the scenic and superficial, in this relationship that exists only in parks. The ending is another ironic twist worthy of O. Henry, but as in the first segment, it's also an opportunity for the playfulness and games to give way to stark honesty. The woman, dropping her tourist act and dropping, too, the flirty charm with which she'd strung along her lover, finally tells him her true feelings, in blunt and painfully honest terms. It's yet another reminder that the charm and surface lightness of much of Rohmer's work can be deceptive, that the emotions at stake in these seemingly trifling stories can in fact be quite profound.


The third and final segment of Rendezvous In Paris, though, concerns much more frivolous and transient relationships than the more enduring ones in the first two stories. A painter (Michael Kraft) gets a visit from a friend of a friend, a Swedish woman (Veronika Johansson) who's visiting Paris and needs someone to show her around. He's not too interested in her, and she seems indifferent to him, and he takes her to a museum where he becomes fascinated by another woman (Bénédicte Loyen), who turns out to be married. There's a more subtle irony at work in this story than in the first two, with their broadly telegraphed twist endings. Throughout this story, the painter uses his work as an excuse, as a pretext, as a prop for conversation: when he doesn't want to do something, he says he's engaged in painting, and when he wants to impress a girl he talks about painting, pompously lecturing on form and color and history to seem intelligent. He's kind of a fraud and an arrogant jerk, like so many of Rohmer's male protagonists, absorbed in himself and so insecure as an artist that his art hardly seems as important to him as meeting girls. The irony arises because, at the end of the film, having passed an afternoon with the married girl who makes it clear that she's not interested, and having been stood up by the Swedish girl who he'd earlier intended to stand up himself, he's finally left alone with his painting, and the events of the day send him off in a new and potentially fruitful direction, injecting some life and vigor into his previously dull work.

This is, perhaps, another not-so-complex ironic twist, if a more subtly communicated one than in the first two segments. But it's Rohmer's sensitivity and wit that allows this point to resonate, as he patiently observes this cad at work and play. "I thought you were an artist, not a pick-up artist," the newly married girl observes wryly as he trots along behind her, much as the stranger in the market had behind Esther in the film's first segment. Like Esther, she seems playfully receptive, committed to her new husband but not so much that she won't indulge in a little harmless banter with this stranger, and even visit his apartment to see his paintings. And as in the first segment, Rohmer's fluency with body language is compelling to watch: the conversation in the painter's studio is a study in distance and intimacy, as the two slowly drift together only for her to abruptly break away, shattering the intimacy that occasionally threatens to develop between them. Their conversation, about art and the importance of searching for one's aesthetic, is a kind of mask for their innocent flirtation, but it's also the first time in the film, one senses, that when the painter talks about his art, he's doing so genuinely, rather than using his painting as an excuse or a tool or a symbol for his identity.

This kind of multi-leveled conversation, where surface meanings and subtexts intertwine and words are both revealing and deceptive, is typical of Rohmer. Even in such a simple, essentially light-hearted film, with its jaunty illustrated titles and interludes of street singers to introduce each tale, Rohmer is dealing with complicated emotions, with the question of how we discover what's important to us and what we want from our lives and relationships. This is, as with so many of the films Rohmer made in his later career, a youthful film made by an older man, with its cute young actresses and handsome leading men, their vibrancy and vitality bringing Rohmer's agile dialogue to exciting life. It's a fun film where even its humor and its playfulness contribute to its deeper themes.

Uk Box Office 22-24 Oct

This weekend the sequel to one of the most profitable films of all time takes the top spot, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2, with an incredible per screen average of over £8K. The takings on this will only continue to roll in as this weekend is Halloween. On the other side of the audience segment, DESPICABLE ME picks up another £2.5 million in receipts. The action movie geared towards the post-40 generation, RED, gathered a respectable £1.6 million, proving not all blow 'em ups need to be geared towards teens. Further proof that adults like movies comes from THE SOCIAL NETWORK's healthy gross.

1- PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (£3,756,788)(NEW)
2- DESPICABLE ME (£2,574,511) (2 WEEKS, TOTAL £7,569,824)
3- RED (£1,654,835) (NEW)
4- THE SOCIAL NETWORK (£1,531,098) (2 WEEKS, TOTAL £5,354,684)
5- THE LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS (£747,374) (NEW)
6- ALPHA AND OMEGA (£644,522)
7- VAMPIRES SUCK (£528,625)(2 WEEKS, TOTAL £2,023,209)
8- EASY A (£275,450) (NEW)
9- LIFE AS WE KNOW IT (£256,749) (3 WEEKS, TOTAL £2,912,651)
10- WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS (£255,058) (3 WEEKS, TOTAL £3,695,078)

Happy Birthday Catherine Dorleac









 She is an Oscar nominated and Cesar award winning actress, a former face of Chanel, the muse of Yves St. Laurent and her image was used for Marianne, the national symbol of France. And how many women can make that claim? Happy birthday to Catherine Fabienne Dorleac a.k.a. Catherine Deneuve who turned 67 this past week.


Bust of Marianne

The iconic beauty has appeared in over 100 films and her classic looks are legendary. She rose to stardom in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and appeared in a variety of roles ranging from a bisexual vampire opposite Susan Sarandon  in cult-classic The Hunger, an ice maiden in Roman Polanski's Repulsion and an Academy Award nominated performance in Indochine. (One role that was not of interest -- the Bond girl in On Her Majesty's Secret Service). Perhaps one of my favorite Deneuve films was the comedy The April Fools (1969) where she plays the neglected wife of Peter Lawford and falls in love with stockbroker Jack Lemmon. (Wonderful costumes and a great Burt Bacharach soundtrack too).


The April Fools







Indochine


As the face of Chanel No. 5 in the seventies, perfume sales soared and eventually she designed a fragrance for herself, aptly known as "Deneuve." Yves St. Laurent designed the costumes for her film Belle de Jour which marked a long collaboration between the two both on (The Hunger, Liza and La Chamade) and off screen. Her romantic collaborations were just as famous -- she married sixties photographer David Bailey and had children with Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni and director Roger Vadim.

Chanel Ad circa de 1974


Deneuve with Yves St. Laurent

Belle de Jour

A grandmother of four (and perpetual smoker), her looks remain timeless which she attributes to monthly vitamin injections, Pilates and visits to a facial masseuse. I am thinking it is probably in the genes. And perfect bone structure.



You can catch her next in the film The Big Picture on November 3rd.