Friday, February 29, 2008


It can be a little disorienting the first time you visit Marty McKee's Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot -- I mean, book reviews on a blog? But once you put your glasses back on after dramatically removing them, you'll notice that Marty usually reviews the kind of action-packed paperbacks that are best read on the hood of an El Camino parked at the top of a quarry. And as you'll read below, Marty sees plenty of movies -- recently, he even braved all of the American Pie sequels for the benefit of his readers. The man who has surely been called 'Marty McFly' at some point in his life also finds time to spotlight forgotten television series, like The New People, and even keep the peace at a few of the Mobius Home Video forums.

LAST DVD YOU BOUGHT: 'Season Two of Hawaii Five-0. I’m an avid fan of old television shows, primarily action/adventures and crime dramas from the 1960s and 1970s. Shortly before receiving the Five-0 set from Amazon, I picked up Season Four of The Rockford Files and Season Three of Mission: Impossible. All three shows are among the greatest television series ever broadcast.'

TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES RECENTLY WRAPPED UP A MONTH OF GUEST PROGRAMMING, IF YOU WERE A GUEST PROGRAMMER WHAT 3 FILMS WOULD YOU PICK TO REPRESENT YOUR TASTES, OR A FAVORITE GENRE OR THEME?: 'Realistically, of course, I’d be restricted to whatever is in Turner’s library. However, I’d like to shine the spotlight on a trio of excellent hard-boiled crime dramas of the 1970s that are more than worth heavy evaluation: Hickey & Boggs with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby and directed by Culp (TCM has this one), The Outfit with Robert Duvall and Joe Don Baker and directed by John Flynn (TCM has never shown this one in its original aspect ratio), and the highly underrated The Dion Brothers with Stacy Keach and Fredric Forrest and directed by Jack Starrett.'

FAVORITE GROSS-OUT MOMENT: 'The most recent one was in Planet Terror, where Josh Brolin punctures the boil on Nicky Katt’s tongue. Argh! Although I’ve seen my share of gore flicks, I prefer the “fun” gore of Friday the 13th movies and Romero zombie flicks to the stomach-churning stuff in, say, Italian cannibal movies. However, the one scene that always draws a huge reaction from audiences—and I’ve seen it about a dozen times—is the bit in The Stabilizer where an Indonesian extra chomps down on a live lizard.'

EARLIEST MOVIE-WATCHING MEMORY: 'Disney movies. When I was a kid, my parents took my brother and I to just about every Disney feature around. This was long before cable television and home video, when Disney was still regularly re-releasing its classic animated features every seven or eight years. I don’t recall which one I saw first, but I definitely saw Bambi, Dumbo, Song of the South, The Jungle Book, Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs theatrically. Checking Wikipedia, I note that Dumbo and Cinderella received re-releases in 1973, when I was six years old, so these were probably the first films I saw, and I do remember scenes from both, even though I haven’t seen either of them since.'

'Until earlier this year, when I finally broke down and watched it after constant haranguing from my friends, it would have been The Goonies. I have no idea why I didn’t see it when it came out, except that I was in college and a few years older than its target audience. Now, I would have to say Goodfellas is the one film everyone is shocked to learn I haven’t seen. And I have no excuse, other than I haven’t gotten around to it. I must admit, however, that I have little affection for gangster movies as a genre and find the romanticizing of criminals tiresome.'

Sleeping Beauty
Death Wish -- 'I have to respect Death Wish. Because if it had never existed, we would have never gotten the deliriously stupid and crazy Death Wish 3.'
Withnail & I

FAVORITE KIND OF MOVIE TO REVIEW: I would actually rather write about something that’s awful than something good, more specifically, something with a wildly wonky plot that sounds more incredible on the page than seeing it on the screen. I think it’s because I can make people laugh and recommend a movie to them at the same time. I’m thinking of, say, D-War: Dragon Wars, which is a fun Korean monster movie, but is hilariously silly and a joy to describe to someone.

LAST TIME YOU WERE AT A DRIVE-IN, AND WHAT DID YOU SEE?: 'I haven’t been to a drive-in since The Mask of Zorro in 1998. The reason I don’t go more often is that drive-ins generally only screen one film, and I think it should be against the law to present anything less than a double feature at a drive-in. As a kid, I went to the drive-in with my parents many times, but most of them are gone now. Only one drive-in remains within convenient driving distance of Champaign-Urbana.'

FILM ERA OR GENRE YOU'RE A LITTLE OBSESSED WITH: ‘70s crime dramas. I’ve seen just about everything from Dirty Harry to Psychopath. It’s a time when cinema wasn’t afraid to be rough and gritty and realistic in its portrayal of action and the criminal element, and I find it fascinating. Plus, there were so many very good action directors working then—Don Siegel, Richard Fleischer, Phil Karlson, Jack Starrett, John Flynn, I could certainly go on—that, for all their obscurity, were better at their craft than all the Doug Limans and Paul Greengrasses of today.'

LAST TIME YOU VEHEMENTLY DISAGREED WITH SOMEONE ABOUT FILM: 'My friend Chris and I argued about American Movie after it came out on DVD. He was offended by it, because he felt that its portrayal of Mark Borchardt was a cruel mockery, but I believe that it really shows Borchardt as a hard-working man with a dream who loves his family and takes care of them and his best friend as well as he can. Yes, he’s eccentric and not particularly well suited to be a filmmaker, but I think American Movie likes him. I know I do.'

FAVORITE BOOK ON THE SUBJECT OF FILM: 'Michael Weldon’s The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, which I discovered in high school and was really the first time I noticed that there were a lot of films out there beyond what Hollywood was churning out. At that time, home video was still in its infancy, and I used to read from cover to cover about European vampire films and women-in-prison flicks and Japanese monsters and Mexican wrestlers and hundreds of other movies that I never thought I would get to see. I’m stunned at the amount of movies I first read about in Weldon’s book that I can now easily purchase or rent on DVD…in their original aspect ratio…and with commentaries by the filmmakers.'

DESCRIBE THE FREQUENCY OF YOUR FILM INTAKE: 'I watched 476 films in 2007, 281 of them for the first time. Almost all of them were on VHS or DVD. I don’t go to theaters much. Outside of January’s annual B-Fest at Northwestern University, I saw a theatrical film only fourteen times this year, which is a slight increase over 2006 and 2005. Three of them I saw in one day (The Tripper, Fracture, Perfect Stranger), Beyond the Valley of the Dolls showed at Roger Ebert’s annual Overlooked Film Festival, and I caught Helvetica at a Parkland College screening, so I actually visited a real theater a mere eight times in 2007. I sincerely wish it were more, but I am not willing to visit a theater to endure 20 (or more if you get there early) minutes of ads, high prices, obnoxious crowds, poor theater conditions, bad sound, shoddy projection and uncomfortable seating, when I can Netflix the same movie a few months later.'

'If you fall into the water during a kung fu fight, you’re out, even if you aren’t hurt.
'Do not talk shit to Chuck Norris if you see him in a bar.
'CGI effects will never look as cool or realistic as old-fashioned miniature effects.'

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Monday, February 25, 2008

'Justice' prevails

With apologies to Lynda Carter, there's no human that can fill the bustier of Wonder Woman. When your superhero movie has an authentic Wonder Woman in it, special things happen: like the realization that she's taller than Superman, the fact that Amazon women from Paradise Island are inherently bad ass bitchy, or simply the visuals of her invisible jet crash landing. Justice League: The New Frontier is overflowing with moments like these, because it's made as a comic book, and not as a movie. A whole act devoted to our plucky character's origin story? Nope -- just a few details here and there about the heroes' backgrounds interspersed between the action. Forced jokes? No time -- we've got a world to save. Though it's a direct-to-DVD animated movie, Justice League: The New Frontier is everything I had hoped the last few blockbuster comic book adaptations would have been. And while much fat has been trimmed to fit into a 75-minute running time, no expenses have been spared in regard to action. This is PG-13 animation, and you're reminded of that in the first few scenes with a shocking violent moment that reminds you this is no after school cartoon.

Based on Darwyn Cooke's graphic novel of the same name, The New Frontier takes us back to the comic book Golden Age of the 1950s for a battle with evil that will require all of Earth's evils. The coming of The Centre, a Connecticut-sized terror that would spit on the Cloverfield monster, draws the world's attention with psychic ripples and a sense of impending doom. There's a genuine sense of urgency to the story, with every character knowing they will play a key role in mankind's future -- and because of this the movie has a roaring pace. Its nonlinear storyline is familiar for comic book epics, but is almost never seen on the screen since Hollywood usually focuses on single superheroes. With this method, introducing the many superheroes seems organic and not like a series of cameos.

And there are a lot of superheroes, from the expected and familiar (Superman, Batman, The Flash) to those that rarely or never leap from the pages (Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Aquaman). Each one has an exciting sequence to themselves to showcase their powers, highlighted by an early scene with The Flash where he blazes through Las Vegas collecting bombs before they explode. The animation in this scene is incredible for how it demonstrates Flash's speed, concluding with shots from his point of view. When together as a team, these are no Superfriends -- they're a mix of contrasting personalities who often don't get along, and certainly not when the fate of the world is at stake. Batman is the dark loner, Wonder Woman is the vocal hot head, Superman has an arrogant jinoistic quality to him and Martian Manhunter is the uncomfortable outsider. While all the characters play a hand in the story, the show mostly belongs to Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter -- with both essentially making their superhero debut during the story. Hal Jordan literally becomes Green Lantern in the middle of the movie, and his introduction to the power ring couldn't have been staged better.

The characters are supported by first-rate animation and voice acting. The animation is a blend of traditional and computer generated, a mostly seamless combination that adds a good punch to the big action scenes. A lot of familiar names lend their voices to The New Frontier, including Lucy Lawless (Wonder Woman), Neil Patrick Harris (The Flash), Miguel Ferrer (Martian Manhunter) and Kyle MacLachlan (Superman). The best of the bunch is easily Jeremy Sisto as Batman, with a Charles McGraw-type gritty delivery that works perfectly with the Dark Knight.
All these promising elements come together memorably in the final showdown with The Centre, a climax pulled straight from the graphic novel that does not let you down in any sense. It's an invigorating final sequence lead by Green Lantern and The Flash after a victory initially looks doomed. It's doubtful either of these characters will ever make it to the big screen, so it's rewarding to see them in a prominent role, in front of the heavyweights. Imaginative with a lean running time, The New Frontier is refreshing after the overweight Spiderman 3 and listless X-Men: The Last Stand.
THE DVD: Hopefully this DVD is a sign of things to come from DC/Warner Bros. Available as a single or two-disc special edition, The New Frontier has a surprisingly vivid transfer -- probably the best-looking non-CGI animated movie I've seen on DVD. The single disc is highlighted by an informative 45-minute documentary on the history of Justice League, with lots of comic heavyweights lending their talents (including Stan Lee). I really didn't know anything about Justice League prior to seeing this DVD, and the documentary is a great companion for fans and newcomers alike. The disc is equipped with two commentaries: an ensemble track from the filmmaking team, and a solo effort from Cooke. The latter is very strong, with the Justice League comic writer and artist adding his thoughts on his graphic novel's transition to an animated movie. Cooke seems largely impressed with how his work was ported, and also provides plenty of background on how the original story was conceived.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Ed Hardy, Jr. knows how precious time (and words) are to us working-class movie fans -- that's why he is committed to giving you his views on film in no more than 24 words over at Shoot the Projectionist. Of course, he is capable of using many more than 24 words on a film, and he also drives to expand the boundaries of his readers' film knowledge -- often through the borders of Poland. Ed's Polish Film Posters series is consistently entertaining (the El Dorado one is all kinds of perfect) and has been known to make one yearn for some makowiec. Ed's had a couple of noteworthy events on his blog in the past year, the 31 Flicks That Give You the Willies project (ahem) and his four part gender analysis of Pinky Violence. The latter provides a wealth of information and careful analysis of a series many film fans may not be familiar with.

LAST TIME YOU WERE AT A DRIVE-IN: 'I grew up near the drive-ins in Union City, CA so I have a ton of drive-in memories: there was Army of Darkness at a birthday party, or the time my family was pictured in a local paper's "Death of the Drive-in" story watching Back to the Future in our drop-top Impala. The last film I saw there was David Fincher's The Game. It was too dark to see anything and I had to see it again in a theater. They closed the drive-ins down not too long after.'

FILM ERA OR GENRE YOU'RE A LITTLE OBSESSED WITH: 'I have become obsessed with a variety of genres over the years. Most recently it's been Italian westerns & slashers and Japanese crime films from the sixties and seventies. It was that period in American film (the Easy Riders, Raging Bulls years) that initially ignited my passion for film as a teenager.'

EARLIEST MOVIE-WATCHING MEMORY: 'My parents took me to see The Neverending Story when I was four (4) and I've still got the theme song stuck in my head.'

LAST DVD YOU BOUGHT: 'Being the poor, unemployed student/artist type, I don't buy DVDs. But for Christmas I got two seasons of Seinfeld and Donnie Darko.'

FAVORITE GROSS-OUT MOMENT IN A FILM: 'This was the hardest question to answer. I'm just not a gross-out kind of guy. So I'm gonna have to go with the most recent example of a moment both grossing me out and making me laugh: in Superbad when Seth walks by with menstrual blood on his pants and the two guys on the couch are giving him a hard time, one wipes his finger on the other, laughing, and goes, "It's blood." That's all.'

TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES RECENTLY WRAPPED UP A MONTH OF GUEST PROGRAMMING, IF YOU WERE A GUEST PROGRAMMER WHAT THREE MOVIES WOULD YOU PICK TO BEST REPRESENT YOUR TASTES, OR A FAVORITE GENRE OR THEME?: 'Godard's My Life to Live (Vivre sa vie, 1962), Alex Cox's Repo Man (1984) and Robert Redford's Quiz Show (1994). All three of these films have blown me away in different ways. My Life to Live grabbed me from the first frame and shook my perceptions of film grammar the way they always told you the Nouvelle Vague was meant to. I love it equally for its self-concious literary pretensions and its exhilirating embrace of life. Repo Man is a work whose brilliance is only illuminated through repetition. The first time I saw it I thought, "What's all the fuss about?" Five viewings (in three days) later, I was hooked on every genius line of dialogue, every sighting of the Chevy Malibu, every production gaffe. I am currently holding myself back from quoting literally every word of the film. Quiz Show crept up on me in an entirely different way. When I saw it I thought it was good, but in that classic, mainstream Hollywood sort of way. But over the years I've seen it again and again and it never stops being fun, funny and, occasionally, wise. Moments in it have lingered with me and will continue to--like the other films I mentioned and like all great films.'

WHAT MOVIE ARE YOU ASHAMED TO SAY YOU HAVEN'T SEEN, AND WHAT'S YOUR EXCUSE?: 'I've never seen It's a Wonderful Life all the way through. I wouldn't be ashamed to say it if I didn't complain about it every "Holiday Season." But I just detest what I've seen of it. I love Jimmy Stewart but whenever he starts yelling "Kids! Kids!" I get a little pukey.'


Withnail & I--Friendships of the bottle have a way of providing the most intense memories and the most bittersweet endings.Withnail & I has both, along with that other thing so crucial to friendship: a million laughs.
Death Wish--
Sleeping Beauty:

FAVORITE KIND OF MOVIE TO REVIEW: 'The kind that I am compelled by, but unsure of why. When there's something to work out by writing about a film--even if it's just whether or not you like it--the piece has a better chance of surprising you, which is infinitely more interesting than writing something "good."'

LAST TIME YOU VEHEMENTLY DISAGREED WITH SOMEONE ON THE SUBJECT OF FILM: 'All the time. The community I'm part of thrives on debate. My close friend and sometime Shoot the Projectionist contributor Darren Russell and I constantly disagree--especially on the subject of Scorsese.'

FAVORITE BOOK ON THE SUBJECT OF FILM: 'For years it was Robert Kolker's Cinema of Loneliness. But a year and a half ago or so I came across Steven Shaviro's The Cinematic Body in a used book store. It has the most personal, exciting and thought-provoking writing on film around--next to Shaviro's blog, that is.'

DESCRIBE THE FREQUENCY OF YOUR FILM INTAKE: '3 films a month in the theater (usually the Parkway Speakeasy in Oakland, CA), another 3 On Demand at my mom's house, and 8 or 10 from Netflix. So on average, a film every other day or so.'

THREE THINGS YOU'VE LEARNED FROM MOVIES: '1. "You never say, 'I'm gonna punch you, Steve. You just smile and suckerpunch the guy." 2. "On the run from Johnny Law--it ain't no trip to Cleveland." 3. "Glory fades."'

Email DVD Panache if you are interested in being featured on Friday Screen Test.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Your DVD rack may someday look like this...

That's because Paramount has made the predictable decision of releasing a 'special edition' of the Indiana Jones Trilogy DVD set on May 13 to help promote the upcoming Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Even more predictable is that a third trilogy set will be released next year to include the latest Indy movie. Failing a Steven Spielberg commentary track (ha!), I can't imagine any reason why I would buy this new set -- and keep in mind that this latest announcement includes no mention of a Blu-Ray version. What might be smarter than releasing any all new set is making the movies available as single discs for the first time, maybe with some snazzy new packaging. If Paramount is actually interested in putting out a new set that would attract double-dippers, there appears to be a good amount of potential extras out there that didn't appear on the first set.

The biggest of these would be the famous fan movie Raiders: The Adaptation, which was pitched to be included in the original set to no avail. Alexandra DuPont maintained in her original review that there are some juicy Raiders and Temple of Doom storyboards and behind-the-scenes footage out there, showing a discarded Nazi character with a machine gun for an arm and a notorious visit to the set by Barbara Streisand. Of course, who really expects Paramount to have any notable upgrades to the new set, beyond a preview for the new movie and dumbed-up cover art?
I've always thought that the best way to make a movie adaptation of the 'classic' super heroes was to set it in the time period when they were introduced (1940s-50s), to better capture the more innocent feel of the characters and their origins. Of course this would also substantially inflate any budget, but you can see the possibilities for characters such as Captain America, Green Lantern or Namor. A movie like this will probably never become reality, but as you can see above, something similar is coming to DVD. It looks like glorious animation, and Warner is doing it the right way by putting it on Blu-Ray and HD and even packing in a second disc of extras. Justice League: The New Frontier comes out next Tuesday, and it's got me very intrigued (just look at that cover art -- you even get Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter!). I'm going to have a full review up sometime next week.

Speaking of doing it the right way, many of those grindhouse-ish collections that started popping up around the time Grindhouse was released are being repackaged to sell. The Drive-In Cult Classics set gives you 8 movies for $10, and it's an interesting lot: Malibu High has been recommended to me a couple times, and the other titles give you exactly what their names suggest (and then some, probably). But really, $10? I'm in. Even more attractive is The Starlight Drive-In Collection: A Dusk Til Dawn Marathon, with 8 mostly quality titles for $21. Titles like The Van, Van Nuys Blvd., The Pom Pom Girls and Hustler Squad are well-regarded in '70s exploitation circles and were previously released in $10 double features, so it's a damn good deal.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Four Favorite Fathers on Film

I really had no idea. Sure, I had read almost an entire book on fatherhood. Even went to a class or four on this thing called a baby. But from day one (maybe minute one), it occurred to me that I was woefully ill-prepared. Beyond a name I wasn't really sure what I had to give him, since my wife was the one with all the food. I felt guilty at first for not educating myself more, but I've since learned that parenting (unlike bomb defusing) is only done with on-the-job training. What did I expect? I think my expectations were shaped by the visions of fatherhood I had seen in movies, with each one of these fellas helping to mold those expectations, while teaching me a parenting skill or two along the way:

Jor-El (Marlon Brando), Superman: The Movie

I put this one first because it was the movie I thought of after hearing the news of a child in our future. Not really the movie, just these two great lines from Jor-El. It's maybe the best thing you can say about someone. Jor-El appears to be pledging his soul to young Kal-El, but the way he says it (and the use of that mysterious crystal) tells us he is absolutely certain Kal-El will never be alone. The opening scenes on Krypton are my favorite of the movie, and are essential to Richard Donner's Superman rising above lesser action fare to an elite level of comic adaptations. Brando's performance has been criticized (especially for what he was paid for the minimal screentime), but where some may see a character bereft of emotion I see confidence. The man's planet is about to explode, but he's relatively at peace because he will be able to see his son prosper on another world.
Key parenting attributes: Supernatural supervision, Phantom Zone research.

Chingachgook (Russell Means), The Last of the Mohicans

It's one thing to know your pops has your back, it's another to know he wields the most terrifying axe/club in the Western world. Chingachgook and his son Uncas (Eric Schweig) are the last of their tribe, and along with Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) they are also the last of a peaceful kind of frontiersman that is being driven to extinction by the outbreak of war and colonization. Chingachgook is a man of few words, preferring to do most of his speaking with his weapon, which is frequently seen smashing limbs and flying through the air. The old man takes center stage in the film's amazing climax, avenging Uncas' death with devastating efficiency before delivering the film's memorable epilogue (from the director's cut):

The frontier place is for people like my white son and his woman and their children. And one day there will be no more frontier. And men like you will go too, like the Mohicans. And new people will come, work, struggle. Some will make their life. But once, we were here.
Key parenting attributes: Carry the largest stick in the forest, save words for later.

Antonio (Lamberto Maggiorani), Bicycle Thieves

I get choked up every time I watch Bicycle Thieves, not at the depressing ending -- but during Antonio and his son Bruno's brief moments of bonding in the midst of their desperate search for the father's stolen bicycle (which equals a job in post-War Italy). The young Bruno doesn't live the life of a small boy, he is forced to be grow up and contribute to the family however possible while not making a fuss. Like his father, Bruno wears the solemn look of a person who does not expect life to be pleasurable, because he has only known struggle. But for a short time one afternoon, Antonio and Bruno become father and son. Perhaps realizing that his bicycle will never be found, and that this small boy walking with him is more important than it, Antonio takes his son out to a restaurant (probably for the first time in his life). Both characters let their guard down at the restaurant and for a few moments forget about the troubles that await them outside its doors. This is always the most heartbreaking part of the movie for me, because Antonio realizes he has deprived his son of a childhood and that he is destined for a life of struggles like his father.
Key parenting attributes: Wine warms the heart, don't let your babies grow up to be bums.

Ben Harper (Peter Graves), The Night of the Hunter

Before he was asking kids about gladiator movies, Peter Graves played every boy's dream vision of the coolest father ever: the tragic would-be Robin Hood dad who entrusts you with his loot before he's hauled away to the gallows. Okay, it's pretty depressing -- but at some point Aiden and I are going to sit down and decide where he'll hide the booty (if and when it comes to that) if I ever am forced to present him with said booty. If I ever have minutes to spare before being hauled away for good, I don't want to waste any time formulating a hidden booty plan like Ben here.
Key parenting attributes: Thievery is your last option, even if the Great Depression is over.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The most important guinea pig in film history!

Hey, remember Paul Clark? For the rest of the month, Paul (with some help from his guinea pig Muriel) is rolling out the second annual Muriel Awards at Silly Hats Only, with a new category winner and accompanying short essay revealed each day. I was honored to be invited as a voter this year, and you can read my writing on Blade Runner, as the Muriel-recipient for 25th Anniversary Award Winner for Best Film, 1982. Paul assembled a lot of excellent contributors, and he even provides the complete voting results for each category. There will be some fun categories near the end, and I'm writing an accompanying essay for one of those as well. A lot of hard work and care has gone into the Muriels, and I think it will grow each year and eventually pass the Oscars in popularity and meaningfulness (stranger things have happened, I think).

Friday, February 15, 2008


More than a mere blogger, Nate Yapp is a Web-siteur -- meaning he has an actual Web site, and a good one at that. Nate's Classic-Horror has been churning out scares since the Pre-MySpace age of the Internet (2002), and has nearly 600 meaty reviews inside its meat locker of movie reviews. A man who can savor the finer flavors of classic horror films, such as the atmospheric chills of The Body Snatcher, or the blind romance of The Toxic Avenger. Appreciative of the genre's true masters, Nate is one of at least two Friday Screen Testers to suffer permanent lumbar damage from trying to read Tim Lucas' Mario Bava tome. Lucas avoided litigation by granting Nate an interview, just as many fine horror folks have done -- including P.J. Soles (!).

FAVORITE GROSS-OUT MOMENT ON FILM: 'The custard scene in Peter Jackson's Braindead/Dead Alive. "Mmm, rich and creamy!" The first time I saw that I nearly puked. I had a chance towatch it on the big screen recently and while my gorge didn't risenearly as high, I was still feeling a bit green. Brilliant.'

FAVORITE KIND OF MOVIE TO REVIEW: 'Something I have a little research material on. I keep a small libraryof cinema-related books (mostly related to the horror genre for obviousreasons) and I like to have some historical background to put into thereview. Director's intentions, shooting conditions, how the project cametogether, what was thought of it at the time, etc. These things help meget into the headspace of the film, so to speak. Right now, the majorpoints of convergence in the book collection regard American horrorbetween 1930 and 1946, English horror in the time of Hammer, and Euro-horror in general in the 1960s and 70s.'

A GENRE OR ERA YOU'RE A LITTLE OBSESSED WITH: 'European horror of the 1960s and 1970s, especially the Italian-madevariety, fascinates me. The blatant psycho-sexuality in much of it wouldmake Freud blush and reach for some more cocaine. I'm drawn to filmswith themes of sexual repression (and reversal/expression of thoserepressed feelings) and countries like Italy and Spain were bustin' outall over the place with those kind of movies at the time.'

EARLIEST MOVIE-WATCHING MEMORY: 'Watching Return of the Jedi in my grandparents' den, on theirtop-loading VCR. It's kind of a rush and a blur, but I do recallthinking that Return of the Jedi was actually Star Wars. I must'vewatched it a half-dozen times (always as a rental tape and always,oddly, at Grandma and Grandpa's) before I ever saw the real Star Wars(and don't give me any of that A New Hope crap -- it's a lame title thatthey only got away with because it was Star Wars first). I also rememberthinking how cool it was that the freaky-talking, highly masculine alienbounty hunter guy took off his helmet to reveal a girl underneath. Callit the spark that lit off a weird tendency to fixate on gender andsexuality subtexts in my reviews.'

LAST DVD YOU BOUGHT: 'I just picked up Ju-on: The Grudge (2003) and A Tale of Two Sisters(2003) from Borders last night. A friend bought me David Kalat's"J-Horror" for Christmas, an excellent primer on the "dead wet girl"films of East Asia, and it's inspired me to dive head-first into ahorror subgenre I've long neglected. I'm very conscious of which filmswe review on Classic-Horror -- how many older films vs. newer films andhow many English-language vs. foreign -- and 2008 will be my year forgiving Japan, Hong Kong, and South Korea their due.'

WHAT MOVIE ARE YOU ASHAMED TO SAY YOU HAVEN'T SEEN -- AND WHAT'S YOUR EXCUSE?: 'If I can sidetrack for a moment, I hate "you-haven't-seen-that"syndrome. It afflicts film critics and self-styled film geeks alike andit has but one symptom: friends, family, and random strangers treatingthe affected with derisive statements like "I can't believe you haven'tseen ___" and "How can you be a film geek if you've never seen ____?"Please, have some consideration for the film-lover. Tradition hasdecreed that movies run 75-240 minutes and there's only so many hours ina day, some of which are (shockingly) not spent watching DVDs or goingto the cinema.

'Back to the subject at hand, until recently, my answer would have been The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, but that has been fixed. Of course,after witnessing its awesomeness, I think I might be more ashamed nowfor having waited so long. I guess the next film down the list would be Lawrence of Arabia and my only defense there is that the runtime isdaunting and my roommate has no interest.'

TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES RECENTLY WRAPPED UP A MONTH OF GUEST PROGRAMMERS, IF YOU WERE A GUEST PROGRAMMER WHAT THREE MOVIES WOULD YOU PICK TO BEST REPRESENT YOUR TASTES OR A FAVORITE GENRE OR THEME?: 'My tastes tend to bounce all over the place, so I'd want arepresentative sample: The Body Snatcher (1945), one of the finest, moodiest horror storiesever told. Certainly the best of the Val Lewton chillers. On the Town (1949), because it has one of the best song and danceensembles I know, with Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Ann Miller, BettyGarrett, Vera-Ellen, and... oh yes, you can never, ever forget JulesMunshin. Ever. This is one of the reasons to love movies. Brazil (1985), because it's a visionary, ballsy film that shouldn't work-- in a lot of ways it doesn't work -- but at the same time, Terry Gilliam's eccentricities suit me perfectly. Just don't call it sciencefiction -- it's the sputtering, crazed child of a black comedy and a screwball comedy.'

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WERE AT A DRIVE-IN, AND WHAT DID YOU SEE?: 'The last time I was at a drive-in was 1989, when Tim Burton's Batman was playing. I remember a lot of horsing around in the back of my Dad's station wagon. There's a drive-in here in town, so I really should makean effort to go before it disappears.'

Sleeping Beauty
Death Wish--I've never seen Death Wish. Should I?
Withnail & I

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU VEHEMENTLY DISAGREED WITH SOMEONE OVER THE SUBJECT OF FILM?: 'I recently got into it with someone regarding the role of the filmcritic. They seemed to feel that a good film critic was one that agreedwith "the people." I feel that the critic's responsibility is one ofcommunication, not taste. We all have opinions on films. A critic's jobis to communicate that opinion clearly and concisely. Of course, theycan hope the reader will agree, but in all likelihood, many will not.You'll know a good critic when their 4-star or A+ review for a film youdislike makes you feel like you've just participated in a greatconversation or debate.'

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE BOOK ON THE SUBJECT OF FILM?: 'Tim Lucas's 1128-page magnum opus Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark, bar none. Everything you thought you knew about Mario Bava, Italian cinema, horror is either illuminated to a greater degree or(better) completely tossed in the wastebin. The sheer comprehensiveness of the work makes me giddy.'

DESCRIBE THE FREQUENCY OF YOUR FILM INTAKE: 'I try to watch 2-3 movies during the week and 3-4 on the weekends. I'd do more, but I also have a website to edit and a full-time job. About once a month, I head to a small second-run theater in Chandler, AZ to catch whatever crazy B-movie double feature the Midnite Movie Mamacita ( is playing. Last time it was Anguish and Blood Rage. Can you imagine watching Anguish on the bigscreen, with all that movie-in-a-movie stuff going on? It was transcendant (and yes, okay, a little silly at times).'

THREE THINGS YOU'VE LEARNED FROM WATCHING MOVIES: '1. Shoot them in the head. 2. When all else fails, it's time for synchronized dancing. 3. Physics are irrelevant in the face of awesomeness.'

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Coens to adapt Chabon!?!

Yup, I think the Coen Bros. have firmly put The Lady Killers behind them. With this news, the filmmaking duo will soon occupy a new creative zipcode -- miles away from anyone in Hollywood (more miles than they already are). Variety says Joel and Ethan Coen's newest project will be an adaptation of Michael Chabon's novel The Yiddish Policemen's Union. Now there's still the matter of shooting A Serious Man, which I don't claim to know anything about, but the Chabon adaptation should be your typically divisive/amazing/confounding Coen film. Chabon wrote The Wonder Boys and one of his other novels, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, is also in development as a movie.

I haven't read Yiddish Policemen's Union, I don't read many books -- but I have very strongly considered reading the Chabon novel, and for me that's pretty good. By all accounts it's a wildly original and bizarre story from an alternate history where Alaska serves as a Jewish refugee settlement after WWII, where we're served a pulpy detective tale. Yeah, this isn't the kind of story for Shawn Levy or Paul W.S. Anderson. Bravo (again), Coens.

Monday, February 11, 2008

DVD notes 2/12

--If you're like me, anything having to do with Wallace & Gromit puts a blowtorch-proof smile on your face. DVD compilations of W&G shorts have been available before, but the latest one is the best -- and is only $10. The new Wallace & Gromit: Three Amazing Adventures came out around Christmas and contains A Close Shave, A Grand Day Out and The Wrong Trousers (all with commentary and behind the scenes), all 10 of the Cracking Contraptions shorts and two Shaun the Sheep episodes. I was not familiar with Shaun the Sheep, but it's a BBC spinoff with the wooly character from A Close Shave, and quite a bit of fun. Clocking in at only seven minutes each, Shaun the Sheep is done in the same fashion as W&G and is a nice addition to the DVD.

My love affair with Nick Park's stop-motion duo began in 1996 on an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin. I was lucky enough to be sitting in the middle aisle of a 747 with about 4 hours to go before touching down on the Emerald Isle, but for about 45 minutes my thumb twiddling was distracted by Wallace and his helpful dog. Park's animation, especially in the finale of The Wrong Trousers, was amazing -- and his comedic eye was even better. I enjoyed 2005's Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, but the concept seems to work best in the shorter run time, so it's a little ridiculous that I put off buying the short compilations until now.

--Swell news from Universal: both volumes of their Classic Sci-Fi Collection will be packaged together for the masses. The collections were BestBuy exclusives and nice buys at only $20, but now go for far more on eBay after going out of print. The Ultimate Collection will go for $44, with a 10 films across six discs. The highpoint of this collection is still The Incredible Shrinking Man, available in its proper widescreen presentation for the first time. It's simply a great movie, and one of the best classic science fiction films you'll ever see. Most of the other titles are obscure, but The Monolith Monsters has always intrigued me and Cult of the Cobra sounds fun enough. Forgotten sci-fi flicks rarely get treatment this good, as Universal has all the films in their appropriate aspect ratios with anamorphic transfes.

--Predictable, but still a little exciting: with the fate of HD-DVD apparently sealed, the price for a player is dropping like a rusty anchor. Most bix box stores are selling HD players for $150, and I'm sure they can be had for less elsewhere. Late adapters can still take advantage of Toshiba's mail-in offer for free HD-DVDs, which I believe lasts until March. What does all this mean if the format is going to die anyway? I think there's going to be a firesale on HD-DVD discs eventually, probably closer to summer when stores try to sell out their remaining inventory. Without HD-DVD's competition, the Blu-Ray discs will continue to retail for $30+ for the near future -- how nice would it be to pick up some HD-DVDs for $10 or less? Just pure speculation of course, but I can see it happening.

-- Finally, it's not as bad as the melting Bill Murray clone -- but are we sure this is Jodie Foster? It looks like something from a Resident Evil cutscene. Any guesses on this image's ratio of Foster:Photoshop? I think her nose might have made it through intact, but her hair seems to suggest an I-5 sized forehead and it's questionable if those are her eyes. Again: what's so wrong with Jodie Foster to merit this kind of treatment?

Friday, February 08, 2008

FRIDAY SCREEN TEST: Ryland Walker Knight

While possessing a name that should at least get his foot in the door of the Mysterious International Traveler industry, Ryland Walker Knight lends his writing talents to a variety of blogs these days. You may have read his passionate support of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End over at The House Next Door, or his entertaning personal wrapup of 2007 on that same site. Outside of the House, Ryland maintains Vinyl is Heavy, along with a small cabal of contributors. If you're still questioning Ryland's enthusiasm, keep in mind that he wrote 7,000 words on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou for a college seminar paper (for which he earned a 'very positive grade'). But if that sounds like a few too many words, check out his Encounter blog, which serves up lots of images and video of all things that make us happy.

LAST DVD YOU BOUGHT: 'I guess that would be Ratatouille, which continues to dazzle and tickle me. I wanted to buy the Killer of Sheep set, but funds are being saved, while fingers are being crossed, for the holidays.'

FAVORITE GROSS-OUT MOMENT: 'I'd almost let Beatrice Dalle do me wrong like she does that young man in Trouble Every Day.'

EARLIEST MOVIE-WATCHING MEMORY: 'The problem with this question is that all my memory pre-1993 is hazy and probably based on stories other people, like my parents, have told me. But the one memory I latch onto from my youth is seeing Predator in Kindergarten. My dad rented it for me and I bragged to our dinner guests that it would be my first R-rated movie. The next year, my mom showed me Blade Runner cuz she thought (correctly) Harrison Ford was great looking and (correctly) I would like the SF elements, if not understand anything or enjoy the eyeball-gouging.'

TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES RECENTLY WRAPPED UP A MONTH OF GUEST PROGRAMMING, IF YOU WERE A GUEST PROGRAMMER WHAT THREE MOVIES WOULD YOU PICK TO BEST REPRESENT YOUR TASTES, OR A FAVORITE GENRE OR THEME?: 'I'm not one to cloak my obsessions, so I appreciate the opportunity to praise something really cool. This something, of course, incorporates a lot of other really cool things. I trust the shades of importance will become ever more apparent (as you read this answer, as you read my blog). Thus, I give you this = Three consecutive nights of Cary Grant: Marriage as "a" city, marriage as "the" city.
(1) Marriage reuniting in the city, His Girl Friday (Hawks, 1940).
(2) Marriage outside the city, in private, on a train, North by Northwest (Hitchcock, 1959).
(3) Marriage failing in the city, and reuniting outside the city, in private, The Awful Truth (McCarey, 1937).'

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WERE AT A DRIVE-IN, AND WHAT DID YOU SEE?: '1993: Jurassic Park. I'm fairly certain.'

FAVORITE KIND OF MOVIE TO REVIEW: 'A movie I care for, and care to praise. Something with guts and smarts alike. Usually that something has elements of my liquid philosophy as well as a strong structural sense and interest in film itself.'

WHAT MOVIE ARE YOU ASHAMED TO SAY YOU HAVEN'T SEEN -- AND WHAT'S YOUR EXCUSE?: 'A ton. I always say I've never seen a film by Dreyer, which is odd given how much of my early college days were spent watching every Bergman film I could find. Excuse? Something always comes up. Like, you know, life.'

Sleeping Beauty:
Death Wish:
Withnail & I: '(1) We demand some booze! (2) Richard E. Grant should be in more movies, and especially those written & directed by Bruce Robinson, as his performances in this picture and How To Get Ahead In Advertising are perfect, bloodthirsty, hilarious arguments for theatrical training.'

IS THERE A FILM GENRE OR ERA YOU'RE A LITTLE OBSESSED WITH?: 'Does Preston Sturges count as a genre? How about films about films? Or, I know, cops-n-robbers action films.'

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU VEHEMENTLY DISAGREED WITH SOMEONE OVER A FILM?: 'My distaste for Pan's Labyrinth has gotten me into some interesting debates in 2007, and I'm almost alone in loving the Pirates sequels, but here's the most recent, the trump card: Oddly, my dad pushed my buttons when he said, "I think Jaws is a better movie than 2001, yeah."
I tried to reply, "Apples and oranges..."
"Yeah, well, [that's my story and I'm sticking to it]."
"Okay, [but it's a left-field comparison that makes zero sense. Both are ostensibly excellent but, c'mon, you know that one is truly transcendent, right?]"
"Which one, Jaws?" (Dialogue edited for the sake of readability, and cuz my memory is hazy.)'

FAVORITE BOOK ON THE SUBJECT OF FILM: 'Tough to narrow down, for sure, but I keep a copy of Negative Space at the ready at all times. It's a deep well, for a variety of reasons. The most obvious being: Manny Farber knew how to use a comma. (Cities of Words, by Stanley Cavell, is more of a book of philosophy, but it's hanging in tough; VF Perkins' Film as Film is indelible; Tarkovsky's Sculpting in Time was an eye-opener, if initially opaque as a motherfucker; and Agee on Film should be required reading for all aspiring critics, right? There's plenty more, but you asked for one, not five or six or twelve.)'

DESCRIBE THE FREQUENCY OF YOUR MOVIE WATCHING: 'I'd wager about 3-5 films a week. This fall, though, I spent a lot of time watching The Wire on DVD. Now that I'm caught up, I imagine the film-watching will pick up. At least, until the semester starts again. Then it'll probably be down to 3-4 a week. Also, I'd like to exercise again on a regular basis. Yeah, don't want to get too doughy sitting in the dark, staying up late eating cookies.'

'(1) I learned to stand still in front of a T-Rex. ("Ian, FREEZE!")
(2) I learned to never turn to the dark side. ("Always stay on the sunny side of life.")
(3) I learned how to love, err, lust after blondes. Especially when they look like Naomi Watts. (Sorry brunettes, I still love, err, lust after you, too. Especially when you look like Penelope Cruz.).

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Burmese Promises: Rambo's back

By Mark A. Curci

Was the it the Philosophers' film of the Decade?
Of course not.
No more than Cash was a poet laureate.
BUT. Was it a good movie? Absolutely.
To examine...The first, damn near inherent, argument...Does America (and, by that. most Americans mean "the World" NEED another Rambo film?
Weren't all those points made? Well, I suspect Stallone's perspective would indicate, "Clearly not."
We start with First Blood, a truly introspective film most people haven't seen, based on the VERY advanced novel by the Canadian writer David Morell.
The thesis? Humans enter into wars with the Abraham convention that sacrifice has a divine dignity to it- which it might...BUT; without respect and understanding of the true implications OF that sacrifice; and WHO and HOW those sacrifices unfold-without THAT understanding... how dare we?
I think ALL the films, at surely varying degrees of complexity, present the thesis that we’ve always been to quick to send out our sacrifices like we’d order in a pizza during a blizzard or hurricane. With calm, detached, simple removal.
The sequels... testosterone infused zen answers to questions we have yet to fully articulate; about how the soldier breaks; fails society, and how an already innately broken society has always failed to answer the riddle of the soldiers we broke. DOES the world need another Rambo?
I guess that depends on whether or not you feel that that question has been answered yet.
In MY opinion, given the movements of the world, and us within it...No. We still ask the same questions with the same bullets.
On the other hand, director/co-writer Stallone takes a keenly hard-lined approach at those who would answer those questions with home-grown, absentee-faith-based naiveté. His answer to that is equally grisly.
My appreciation for the film is that it ultimately offers no immediate answer. It merely paints a portrait of war that, one critic, bafflingly in a pejorative sentiment, said that the film, "depicts violence so graphically that it transcends cartoonishness."
Well, duh. That's the point.Violence transcends cartoonishness.
And, even in the parts where one roots for the "good" guy... the shots are devastating. They are laborious. They are disgusting... and, further, they make ourselves disgusted with ourselves for having ever rooted for the John Wayne simplifications-cowboys-and-indians answers we were handed before.
Seeing a person come apart isn't supposed to be simple, and it certainly isn't supposed to be pretty. It's a disgusting, revolting act, meant to be just that. And, here, it is.
In this film… it is NOT. The theme of the original is how long of a road home life is, in the context of the horrors we face.Attach your own philosophy to what "home" is; but in this film... I feel Stallone presents a very sober, if not subjective, answer.
Something of a..."Enough is FUCKING-ENOUGH!!!"...Maybe home IS worth the trip.
And, in his way, a big "Fuck-you" to Hollywood to boot. Ironically, Hollywood hasn't gotten it yet, and is actually marketing it. But I think I get it.
Anyway, again, all subjective. But I give it a thumbs up.
Again, by NO means the best film of whatever *insert arbitrary time frame* BUT...a work of artistic and competent merit, for friend who accompanied me, a world-traveled anthropology major, she thanked me, saying she felt the film had merit, that she appreciated it AND... that, of course, she'd never have seen it if I hadn't asked her to accompany me.
There you go. Like all Zen...sometimes the best way to think is by not over-thinking. In that, Stallone has always been our masculine-monk-master... forever under-appreciated in the plainest of sight.…the point is made through what I observed while smoking on my deck after the film.
Six cars, on an obviously iced up road zoomed past. Each times, within seconds, a long and loud screech wailed down the road. Americans just don’t get what’s obvious. They must be slapped, then lulled. We don’t wish nor require sense. We need to be tricked, into Stewart, or Stallone- wisdom masqued as Pop, to get the Point.
The point is the ridiculousness of us, our excess our vanity and our willingness to go the distance.
St. Aquinas painted proof of God’s existence in the world as evidenced through five naturalized proofs. We, on the other hand, have bleached everything natural from our periphery and wonder why we never see God in the white noise punctuating our commercial channel surfing. We’re fools. But, the fools we are- ignorant to so much of the Art in this world… we’d do worse than a three-billion-dollar, one-eyed King like Stallone finally coming full-circle....But enough of that... read the book ya'selves!

Mark A. Curci is a writer and poet based in Ashland, Ore. He once rode a Greyhound bus from Oregon to New Orleans and back.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Deeply Superficial Darko

Note: This post is a contribution to the Deeply Superficial Blog-a-Thon at South Dakota Dark.

Orson Welles and Richard Kelly were both 26 when their breakout films were made, but only one of those works was made with the care and creativity beyond their years. Donnie Darko is youthfully flawed, but that's also part of its charm -- and perhaps the main reason it enjoys a cult-like following with young people. The story may seem impenetrable to some, but part of that is due to needlessly complex narrative elements, which often leads the viewer down the garden path but also out the gate and onto a busy highway.

But its youthful enthusiasm also results in a few truly special moments, that an older filmmaker might not have attempted. An opening credits introduction set to Echo and The Bunnymen's The Killing Moon feels like the beginning to a television drama (more memorably on the Director's Cut, when the song is replaced by INXS' Never Tear Us Apart), and Donnie and his sister Elizabeth (Jake and Maggie Gyllenhall) often exist on screen in luke-warm sexual tension. Even if the movie never quite comes together for you, it's hard to argue that the centerpiece comes in a wildly attractive scene at Donnie's high school where characters and plot elements are teased to us like a steakhouse menu. Kelly's camera swims through the school like a wandering freshman, and the whole affair is backed by a selective edit of Tears for Fears' Head Over Heels. I've only watched the movie itself all the way through a couple times, but it's easy to flip this sequence on every now and then to enjoy it on a deeply superficial level:

The first nod to an upcoming storyline, with a quick look at Patrick Swayze's coif, and the teacher who holds his "Attitudinal Beliefs" so dear.
My favorite shot of the sequence, as high school newcomer Gretchen (Jena Malone) briefly catches the eye of Kelly's lens through her locker mirror.

A clever, well-timed shot, as we see Seth take a quick snort of coke before the principal comes into view to take a naive look down the hall.
The school's grotesque mascot that will be mentioned later in the film
Jim Cunningham (Swayze) arrives on campus, "Attitudinal Beliefs" in tow.
Ms. Pomeroy and Mr. Monnitoff (Drew Barrymore and Noah Wylie) meet Jim, with the clearly disapproving Susie Bates in the background.
Samantha Darko (Daveigh Chase) and her dance team, a key plot catalyst.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Has anyone seen Bill Murray?

He seems to have vanished from the cover of the new Groundhog Day DVD and replaced with an impersonator. Who is that guy?

Friday, February 01, 2008


A recently retired film critic whose reviews graced the pages of The Philadelphai Inquirer, The Sacramento Bee, and occasionally The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, you can now find Joe Baltake's film notes at The Passionate Moviegoer. When Joe describes his blog as 'devoted to the neglected, the overlooked and the forgotten,' he means it. As a critic with a vault of film knowledge, Baltake highlights forgotten fare such as September 30, 1955 and Happy Birthday, Wanda June. A regular feature on The Passionate Moviegoer is a rundown of the next month's TCM schedule, with Joe critiquing the programming and offering his picks for the month's best. Speaking of TCM, Joe has had the privelege of talking shop with none other than Robert Osbourne. If the reviews on his blog aren't enough for you, there's 2,060 of them at Rotten Tomatoes, dating back to 1994.

FAVORITE GROSS-OUT MOMENT: 'John Belushi impersonating a projectile zit in Animal House.'

WHAT MOVIE ARE YOU ASHAMED TO SAY YOU HAVEN'T SEEN -- AND WHAT'S YOUR EXCUSE?: 'I've avoided Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons because I'm afraid that I would be preoccupied with what's missing from the film - the studio-sanctioned cuts that Robert Wise had to make. I sense that the film would seem, well, amputated to me. I'd like to take the liberty here, Adam, to extend this question and mention a classic film that I don't like: Casablanca. I know that sounds like blasphemy. However, I've tried watching it at least 25 times and just can't get into it. My attention span goes zip during it. It may have something to do with my resistance to Bogart as both an actor and a personality. More blasphemy, right? But it's true. I just don't like it.'

TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES RECENTLY WRAPPED UP A MONTH OF GUEST PROGRAMMING, IF YOU WERE A GUEST PROGRAMMER WHAT THREE MOVIES WOULD YOU PICK TO BEST REPRESENT YOUR TASTES, OR A FAVORITE GENRE OR THEME?: 'Billy Wilder's The Apartment, Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo and Mervyn LeRoy's Gypsy (a criminally underrated film) - obviously, I am a child of the '60s.'

EARLIEST MOVIE-WATCHING MEMORY: 'I'm seriously dating myself here: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Monroe. I fell in love with her, with movies in general and with musicals in particular.'

LAST DVD YOU BOUGHT: 'Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof.'

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WERE AT A DRIVE-IN, AND WHAT DID YOU SEE: 'I grew up in New Jersey, home of the first drive-ins, so I spent a lot of time at them. As a movie buff, I always thought they were the perfect venue for fellow buffs to see and discuss new films (while they unreel) without disturbing anyone. I haven't been to one in years, but I have a vivid recollection going to one (in Jersey again) that was showing a Hitchcock festival. I took a battery-powered tape recorder to record the dialogue from Marnie. (Still have it, despite the advent of home video and DVDs.) I'd guess that that was about 20 years ago.'

FAVORITE KIND OF MOVIE TO REVIEW: 'Comedy-drama, hands-down. Something like Wilder's The Apartment or Ashby's The Landlord, movies anchored in realism but driven by their respective sense of humor.'

Death Wish:
Withnail & I: 'Bruce Robinson's witty, hugely companionable fable of two actor-buddies weathering a vacation as the 1960s come to an end, the decade as frazzled and as unhinged as the filmmaker's two protagonists. The film has the initmacy of autobiography (Robinson started his career as an actor), a quality that's handily subverted by Richard E. Grant's shameless, wildly entertaining breakthrough performance as Withnail.'
Sleeping Beauty:

GENRE OR ERA YOU'RE A LITTLE OBSESSED WITH: 'I love the films from the 1960s and especially miss the breezy, star-driven films that Doris Day and Frank Sinatra made. However, I am really obsessed with the film musical because the genre as been so cruely abandoned by moviegoers and because it makes male moviegoers so uptight. Since when is it a negtive comment on a man's sexuality if he goes to and likes film musicals? My dad loved them. He loved all movies. He had no problem with the idea of going to see Gigi and, believe me, he was all-man. (My wife has the same memories of her father.) The film musical must be rescued! It must be saved, I say.'

LAST TIME YOU VEHEMENTLY DISAGREED WITH SOMEONE ABOUT FILM: 'I disagree with people on film all the time, that's why most people avoid me. Actually, it was just yesterday. A critic mentioned the new film Juno, which he loved. I disagreed. I like the film. I think it's very well done, well-acted and funny, but I also think it's become wildly overrated since playing the festival circuit. In general, I have a problem with modern criticism because everything is either great or lousy. There's no gray area anymore. I think there's a problem with hastily-thought-out reviews because of the relentless crush of films that come charging at reviewers today. There's just no time to savor a film anymore. Critics are too busy cranking out reviews.'

FAVORITE BOOK ON THE SUBJECT OF FILM: 'Just one, Adam? Jeez, then I would have to go with David Thomson's "The New Biographical Dictionary of Film." (But, if you'll indulge me, I have to add Dwight MacDonald's "On Movies," Francois Truffaut's "The Films in My Life," Jonathan Rosenbaum's "Movie Wars," Cameron Crowe's "Conversations with Wilder," Julia Phillips' "You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again," all of the Pauline Kael review anthologies, and finally Damien Bona's "Inside Oscar 2," because I am quoted so profusely in it!)'

DESCRIBE THE FREQUENCY OF YOUR FILM VIEWINGS: 'the agencies in Philaldelphia have kept me on their screening lists, so I get to about four or five critics' screenings a week, plus there are those occasions when I take my wife to something on the weekend. In a good week, I can see as many as six new films.'

THREE THINGS YOU'VE LEARNED FROM MOVIES: 'Provocative question. (1) First and foremost, I think I've learned tolerance from watching movies compulsively - tolereance and empathy. I never understood how someone who views a lot of films, especially films from different countries and cultures can be bigoted or prejudiced. Exposing oneself to a wide variety of movies should broaden one's view of things and open the mind to new, even alien ideas. (2) Secondly, sophistication. Watching a lot of films has given me a more sophisticated taste in films than I would otherwise have. As a professional critic, I was always put off by readers who would dismiss movie critics as "snobs" when quite the opposite is true. Critics sit through anything and everything, and usually with great enthusiasm. It's the average moviegoer who is picky and selective (Subtitles? No! Musicals? No! Black-&-White movies? No!), limiting his/her film diet. (3) And, finally, I've picked up an appreciation for what was achieved in older films that had fewer resources. Case in point: Elizabeth Taylor's big entrance in 1960's Cleopatra is peopled with literally thousands of extras - real people. Today, all that would be accomplished via CGI - the crowd would have been conjured up on a computer. The Wizard of Oz may seem primitive compared to today's Harry Potter films but I appreciate the thought and work that went into it - and still get a big kick when it turns from black-and-white into color. '

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