Cutting Room for November 9

  • From the “Because You Demanded It” File: Jennifer Lopez is producing a live-action version of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Originally a video game with the sick desire to actually educate players about geography, the elusive titular character had a game show in the 1990s and an animated cartoon before fading into an oblivion that made said title ironic. Although Lopez has not expressed a desire to play the aforementioned elusive globe-trotter, she’d be lousy for the part. Why? Well, because of relentless Fiat and “American Idol” advertising, not only can I find her, I can’t get away from her.
  • Because nobody wants to hear a movie guy opine about music, I’ll refrain from telling you exactly what I think about that weird Lou Reed/Metallica album. Besides, my full opinion involves a drawing of a dumpster and the sound of cute bunny’s death rattle. The good news is that Darren Aronofsky is directing a video from the album, for a song called “Iced Honey,” which sounds delicious but isn’t. With perhaps the most talented filmmaker working today behind the camera, at least one of our four senses may enjoy something from this musical experiment gone wrong.
  •  Should an ape win an Oscar? No, this isn’t a Russell Crowe joke. Andy Serkis, the man who played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings series and Cesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is a master of motion capture, which is where an actor does all of the physical work on set wearing what looks like fancy headgear and is replaced in postproduction by computer animation. Because Apes went bananas at the box office (sorry, I had to do it), Serkis has netted a deal to return to the role, and the studio has agreed to push for an Oscar nod, which would mark the first time an animated character would be nominated…unless you count anything Robin Williams was nominated for in the 80s or 90s.

Cutting Room provides breaking local and national movie news … complete with added sarcasm. Send any relevant information to film@thereader.com. Check out Ryan on Movieha!, a weekly half-hour movie podcast (movieha.libsyn.com/rss), catch him on the radio on CD 105.9 (cd1059.com) on Fridays at around 7:30 a.m. and on KVNO 90.7 (KVNO.org) at 8:30 a.m. on Fridays and follow him on Twitter (twitter.com/thereaderfilm).


entered on 11/09/11 at 10:25 AM | read comments »


Cutting Room for November 2

  • Challenging their status as respected visionaries, The Coen Brothers (who are admittedly far, far smarter than yours truly), have determined that Justin Timberlake isn’t the colossal failure as an actor that the vast majority of his IMDB page would suggest. The legendary auteurs are pursuing the sexy-backer for a major role in Inside Llewellyn Davis, which is thankfully about folk rock in the 1960s and not the colonoscopy of a man named Llewellyn Davis. The good news is he can draw on the musical talents he’s decided to shun. The bad news is, you know, the whole acting thing.
  • I suppose if you’re going to make a biopic of Steve Jobs’ life, a wholly unneeded endeavor given the bubbling fountain of cyber-ink that has been spilled documenting his every breath, you could do worse than having Aaron Sorkin write it. After all, he’s already proved more than capable of bearing the dual albatrosses of a computer-centric storyline that’s based on real events with The Social Network. Although the studio (ironically, Sony) is pursuing the master of walky-talky dialogue, it’s unclear whether he’s ready to once more plunge into the often ill-fated technology-laden drama breech.
  • How much do you love Batman? Like, lots and lots? Say, enough to endure a gigantic version of Tom Cruise? Word has come from the studio that The Dark Knight Rises will have a six-minute prologue/preview in front of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. But only in front of the IMAX version and, even then, only on full 70mm IMAX screens (not the smaller, digital-projection screens). A full list of participating theaters will be announced shortly, presumably via the bat signal.

Cutting Room provides breaking local and national movie news … complete with added sarcasm. Send any relevant information to film@thereader.com. Check out Ryan on Movieha!, a weekly half-hour movie podcast (movieha.libsyn.com/rss), catch him on the radio on CD 105.9 (cd1059.com) on Fridays at around 7:30 a.m. and on KVNO 90.7 (KVNO.org) at 8:30 a.m. on Fridays and follow him on Twitter (twitter.com/thereaderfilm).


entered on 11/02/11 at 02:48 PM | read comments »


Netflix Random Five: Halloween

Lament the lack of new releases all you want: as of right now there are 899 titles available for instant streaming on Netflix in the “Horror” genre. There's a lot of amazingly bad looking stuff on there of course, but for every Bachelor Party in the Bungalow of the Damned, there's at least one Vincent Price or Bela Lugosi movie to be found.

Under the weight of such a diverse catalog, my plans for a nice little list of the best Instant Watchables for Halloween quickly devolved. Every glance at the films on offer seemed to lead to a new question. What about all the old Universal Studios monsters? What about Asian horror? What about zombies?

So here's what I've ended up with: a meager, unranked list of five of my favorite Halloween-ish movies available for streaming right now from the depths of Netflix, with an intentional avoidance of better-known fare (Evil Dead, Scream, etc). With that, and the above questions, in mind: discuss, dissent, add to the list! And happy halloween!

The Fog (1980) Though not nearly as popular (or as good) as 1978's Halloween, John Carpenter's The Fog is still totally worth a watch. Even in spite of this synopsis: the residents of a small coastal town defend themselves against a persistent fog bank that carries ghostly/bloodthirsty/faceless pirate-ish guys within it. Sounds awfully goofy, but Carpenter is as solid a filmmaker as they come, and this thing gets as tense as his best and better known work. Notice how selective he is about when and when not to pop in that creepy score.

Deep Red (1975) A major influence on Halloween, the granddaddy of all slasher pictures, Dario Argento's masterpiece follows a pianist (David Hemmings) investigating the murder of his psychic neighbor. It drags and droops in spots, but the sound, colors and atmosphere of it all is gripping. The version available for streaming was less-than-expertly dubbed into English from the original Italian, which takes a bit of getting used to.

The Perfume of the Lady in Black (1974) This is one of those rare titles where you get a good sense of the situation by glancing at the Netflix member reviews: several four and five-star ratings, along with several lines like “what the hell was this movie about?”. I can't quite answer that either, but I can confidently say, for better or worse, that Perfume is even weirder than Deep Red, with half the blood and twice the sex. It's essentially the story of a fragile girl, played by the one and only Mimsy Farmer (there could only possibly be one Mimsy Farmer, right?), who falls face-first into madness.

The Cat and the Canary (1927) I'm a sucker for haunted house movies, and this is the primordial one. In it, a hairy-pawed killer creeps around an old mansion full of family riches and greedy potential-heirs, and tries to strangle his way into some money. The Hollywood debut of German Expressionist director Paul Leni (Waxworks), this silent is thoroughly entertaining and remarkably atmospheric, even if it is a little heavy on the comic relief and light on the actual scares.

The Fly (1986) In The Fly, one of David Cronenberg's most famous pictures, the consistently strange Jeff Goldblum plays a consistently strange scientist experimenting with teleportation. Geena Davis is his reporter girlfriend who watches it all go wrong. Extremely gross and just as funny, The Fly is the blackest of black comedies, with a painfully tragic edge. The fact that he cast Goldblum in this role is all the proof I need of Cronenberg's genius. No one on earth delivers lines the way that guy does.


entered on 10/27/11 at 05:13 AM | read comments »


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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The epic conclusion to the most epic of epics.

GRADE
A-


The Babadook

A terrifying tale of an ooky pop-up book and motherly love.

GRADE
A


The Tale of Princess Kaguya

A water-colored take on a Japanese folktale that is prettier than it is interesting.

GRADE
B-


The Theory of Everything

"Out of this world" performances buoy a sub-par script.

GRADE
B+


Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Half of what promises to be an epic conclusion to a fabulous series.

GRADE
B+


Birdman

A delirously fun satirical send up of artistic pretension. 

GRADE
B+


The Overnighters

"The Grapes of Wrath" in documentary form set in North Dakota.

GRADE
A-


Interstellar

If this was humanity's last hope, give up.

GRADE
D


Happy, Little Clouded

Actual human beings made The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and you can tell. A water-colored rebuke of the robots who...

more »


No Big Bang

In 1965, Stephen Hawking wrote his first ground-breaking thesis and wed Jane Wilde. His paper argued that if a star can...

more »


Leni Riefen-stalling

On the one hand, any film subtitled “Part 1” is a naked cash grab. On the other hand, shut up and take my money, Hunger...

more »


Oopsie Genius

I know two things for sure: (1) Birdman aims to relentlessly drive home one singular point, one thoroughly expressed thesis...

more »


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