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THE TOWN (2010) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 11:19am

As the film tells us at the start, the Charlestown section of Boston is the bank robbery capital of the U.S.  It also gives a quote from a Charlestown resident stating that the town was a great place to grow up, but it ruined his life. The characters are products of this environment. It defines them whether they like it or not.

Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck, GOOD WILL HUNTING) is the brains of a bank robbery crew. It's sort of the family business; his father Stephen (Chris Cooper, AMERICAN BEAUTY) is serving time for robbery. During the latest heist, his best friend James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner, THE HURT LOCKER) takes an unnecessary hostage in petrified assistant bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall, VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA). Doug feels bad about the whole thing, so he follows Claire to make sure that she is okay. It also doesn't hurt to know what she knows.

Blogs

CATFISH (2010) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 5:52pm

Serendipity often plays a huge part in some of the greatest documentaries ever made. Like Errol Morris with THE THIN BLUE LINE or Ross McElwee with SHERMAN'S MARCH, filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman had their cameras ready when a story presented itself. They began filming before they really knew what they had. When they started there is no way they could have imagined how crazy the journey to the end would be.

Ariel's brother Nev is a professional photographer. He often shoots dancers. After one of his pictures appeared in the newspaper, he received a painting of the photograph from Abby, an eight year old living in Michigan. The paintings show talent. Over time he develops a pen pal relationship with the young girl. Her mother Angela says that her daughter's paintings have sold for upwards of $7,000. Nev becomes friends with them on Facebook and starts chatting up Abby's older sister Megan, a singer and wannabe model. They talk on the phone and Nev certainly is falling for the pretty girl. His brother and Joost thought they were filming a story of how technology affects modern romance. They got that and so much more.

Foreman Blogs

Frenzer Foreman Animation Forum (podcast) x 18

This week on the Frenzer Foreman Animation Forum: a big announcement, time-travel, and special guest filmaker/animator/object-manipulator/shadow-hugger Janie Geiser. Join Joel, Alan, Sam Olschan, and Computer as they discuss with Janie the finer points of puppet-performance, the gallery vs. the theater, funding your personal art, and how to fix your apartment or life with gaff tape.

Blogs

NEVER LET ME GO (2010) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 4:23pm

Due to its subject matter, this film should be called sci-fi. But its tone is far closer to a somber period piece. Mark Romanek, whose only other feature film was the sad thriller ONE HOUR PHOTO, has kept the same straightforward tone of the book from Kazuo Ishiguro, whose novel REMAINS OF THE DAY was adapted into a somber film as well. Romanek never sensationalizes the material into some kind of conspiracy thriller. He asks one philosophical question and spends the film answering that question in an emotionally powerful way.

Blogs

NEVER LET ME GO (2010) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 4:20pm

Due to its subject matter, this film should be called sci-fi. But its tone is far closer to a somber period piece. Mark Romanek, whose only other feature film was the sad thriller ONE HOUR PHOTO, has kept the same straightforward tone of the book from Kazuo Ishiguro, whose novel REMAINS OF THE DAY was adapted into a somber film as well. Romanek never sensationalizes the material into some kind of conspiracy thriller. He asks one philosophical question and spends the film answering that question in an emotionally powerful way.

Kathy (Carey Mulligan, AN EDUCATION), Tommy (Andrew Garfield, RED RIDING TRILOGY) and Ruth (Keira Knightley, PRIDE & PREJUDICE) have grown up together at the highly controlled boarding school Hailsham. The headmistress Miss Emily (Charlotte Rampling, SWIMMING POOL) does not stand for anyone breaking the rules. The children were told stories that if they left the grounds even for a second they might be savagely murdered. They wear wristbands to make sure they are all accounted for. The new teacher Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins, HAPPY-GO-LUCKY) begins to question the morality of how the children are being treated, but her views are seen as subversion.

Animation Blogs

THE BLACK CAULDRON (1985) (**1/2)

Many critics put this as one of the lowest, if not the lowest point, in Disney Feature Animation history. While it's not as big a failure as a film as so many say, its financial disaster has put an extra pall over its history. Getting crushed by THE CARE BEAR MOVIE at the box office will do that. The straightforward fantasy adventure is undercut by weak characters mainly.

Blogs

THE BLACK CAULDRON (1985) (**1/2)

Many critics put this as one of the lowest, if not the lowest point, in Disney Feature Animation history. While it's not as big a failure as a film as so many say, its financial disaster has put an extra pall over its history. Getting crushed by THE CARE BEAR MOVIE at the box office will do that. The straightforward fantasy adventure is undercut by weak characters mainly.

Based on Lloyd Alexander's CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN book series, the LORD OF THE RINGS-like adventure with a coming of age twist seemed like a perfect story for the Disney animators to tackle. Taran (Grant Bardsley) is an assistant pig farmer who dreams of becoming a great warrior. His mentor Dallben (Freddie Jones, DUNE) is really an enchanter who is protecting the mystical pig Hen Wen from falling into the clutches of The Horned King (John Hurt, THE ELEPHANT MAN), who wants to use the swine to locate the Black Cauldron, which could allow him to raise an army of the undead and take over the world.

Blogs

CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010) (**)

When I was five, there were two films that completely captured by imagination — STAR WARS and CLASH OF THE TITANS. The original is a campy classic epic adventure punctuated by Ray Harryhausen's awesome special effects. In this remake, I looked forward to seeing some of the plot hiccups reworked and combined with modern visual effects. All I got was more plot hiccups that ultimately render the modern visual effects less than thrilling.

Zeus (Liam Neeson, TAKEN) and the gods need the prayers of humans to retain their power. When humans challenge the gods, they seek revenge. King Acrisius (Jason Flemyng, KICK-ASS) challenges the gods' rule, so Zeus rapes his wife, impregnating her. In defiance, Acrisius nails his wife and bastard son Perseus in a coffin and plans to drop them into the sea. Right when he's about to carry out the deed, he is struck by lightning. Disfigured, he changes his name to Calibos and goes into hiding. The coffin is recovered by a fisherman named Spyros (Pete Postlethwaite, IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER), who finds Perseus alive and adopts the boy.

Blogs

Blu-ray Buzz – One Flew to Blu-ray

This is a full week. Classics and cult flicks abound on Blu-ray. The Buzzed About section is full of interesting indie titles arriving on DVD only. So let the list begin.

Pick of the Week
One Flew Over Cuckoo's Nest
Milos Forman's adaptation of Ken Kesey's classic novel is one of the best films of the 1970s. The film earned Oscars for Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher, Forman, and Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman for Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as Best Picture. Nominations went to Brad Dourif for Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Score. Nicholson's R.P. McMurphy is an archetype of the '70s antihero. He manipulates himself into getting institutionalized instead of going to jail. His rebellion against the petty and pointless rules of Nurse Ratched (Fletcher) only verifies his insanity to the powers that be. In addition to Nicholson, Fletcher and Dourif, the cast includes Scatman Crothers, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd and Vincent Schiavelli. Will Sampson made an impression as the iconic mute Native American named Chief. Funny and heartbreaking, this is one of my favorite films.

Blogs

FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (****)

In the 1950s, science fiction began to step out of kid adventure mode and deal with more adult themes. This coy sci-fi adventure dealt with the secret thoughts that lurk within us all. Its influence on the genre is endless, most notably inspiring the tone and psychological themes of STAR TREK.

Inspired by Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST, the story follows Commander J.J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen, NAKED GUN) as he leads an expedition to the distant planet of Altair IV where a previous expedition has gone missing. When they arrive at the planet, the only surviving member of the last crew, Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon, MADAME CURIE), warns them to turn around and go home. Adams ignores the warning and lands to find that the previous crew was wiped out by an unseen entity. Dr. Morbius has utilized the highly advanced technology of the previous inhabitants of the planet, the Krell, to build an advanced robot named Robby (Marvin Miller, M*A*S*H). What he's less willing to reveal is his beautiful daughter Altaria (Anne Francis, BLACKBOARD JUNGLE). How Lt. "Doc" Ostrow (Warren Stevens, THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA) and Lt. Jerry Farman (Jack Kelly, TV's MAVERICK) react to her, he might have legitimate concerns.

Blogs

THX 1138 (1971) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, September 8, 2010 at 4:07pm

Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope was supposed to be a haven for young San Francisco filmmakers. But Warner Bros. backed away from its deal with the company before it really got started. However, this wasn't before a young George Lucas had the chance to do a feature length version of his short from USC. This low-budget sci-fi film set the groundwork for Lucas to get the funding for STAR WARS. Yet this film is a starkly different kind of sci-fi than the Flash Gordon serial adventure that came in 1977.

In the 25th century, humans live in a highly controlled underground society. They are feed drugs to dampen their emotions. Physical sex is outlawed and roommates are simply assigned. One deity called OMM 0910 has been approved to worship. (He looks a lot like Hans Memling's Christ.) Androids police the human population.

Blogs

The value of information

At this moment I'm using my Ipad to write this blog, my Windows7 workstation at the office to finish and upload it, while I'm checking my mail on my Android phone. We have an internal Wiki, a second wiki for another company I'm partnering in, Shotgun for project management, Tara with a SQL server backend for automated tasks, an Access database for on-set data, expression media databases, a facebook page linked to our Twitter and Youtube accounts, an Exchange server for Outlook, three Dropbox accounts, a Yousendit account, our own ftp server, I'm on linked-in, Xing, vfxconnection, and I'm getting daily Google alerts on a dozen topics . It's exhausting.

But for some reason I still have the feeling I'm not getting the information I actually WANT or NEED.

Animation Blogs

Frenzer Foreman Animation Forum (podcast) x 17

FFAF continues its Salutation to Tinselville this week with more animation conversation from the Heart of Hollywood. This week's special guest and lovably evil animator-innovator, JJ Villard, scratches the true grit of the LA animation underbelly as he devles into discussion on his films, animation career prep, dirty-dogs, the worth of the festival-hussle, the subtext of the Walk of Fame, choice Starbucks beverages, Shrek, major studio lunch-spreads, and how to charm the evil of it all.

Blogs

Blu-ray Buzz – Blood Among Other Things

After a solo showing last week, this week has eight featured titles. Classics and some fun fill the Pick of the Week and Queue Qualified sections, while some critical acclaimed films from earlier this year are coming to DVD and Blu-ray for the first time in the Buzzed About section. Lots of interesting flicks to consider.

Pick of the Week
In Cold Blood
Richard Brooks' film adaptation of Truman Capote's legendary true crime novel is also one of the great true crime movies. Gritty realism makes this black & white production as modern feeling as any film today. Often filmed in the real locations where the real life events took place, the film follows the police's pursuit of Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock after their ruthlessly slaughter the Clutter family. Robert Blake as Perry and Scott Wilson as Hickcock are like lost children, never realizing what they've done until it's too late. With its even-handed approach, it's a complex study of crime that has been rarely matched.

Blogs

Steve Streeting; how to work efficiently

By David Maas | Monday, September 6, 2010 at 12:40am

Steve Streeting, if anyone, should know how to plan his work week. He's been at the helm of OGRE (the open graphic rendering engine) and a prolific freelance developer for a qurter century. Refreshingly, he admits that it isn't that easy... even with so much experience under your belt. Check out his post for valuable work tips on how to make the most of your time.

Blogs

CITY ISLAND (2010) (***1/2)

This comedy comes from Raymond De Felitta, who made the wonderfully charming romance TWO FAMILY HOUSE. The title takes its name from the mile and a half island in the Bronx. It's a fishing town and seems completely alien to the rest of NYC. Each of the members of the film's central family seem completely alien to the other members. It's a film about secrets and how they bring unneeded chaos to this one family.

Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia, THE MAN FROM ELYSIAN FIELDS) is keeping something from his family. He tells them that he's going to a weekly poker game, but really he's taking an acting class. His wife Joyce (Julianna Margulies, TV's THE GOOD WIFE) is pretty tough on him for being a prison guard. She also rides him for sneaking a smoke, despite the fact that she does the same. Oh, he has another secret. He has a grown son from a previous relationship that he walked out on and now that son Tony (Steven Strait, SKY HIGH) has been transferred to his prison for boosting cars.

Blogs

Trekking Around Animation Town

By Jan Nagel | Friday, September 3, 2010 at 9:43am

Just this week I visited several studios with a software client. The industry is preparing for MIPCOM in October. . . When MIPCOM, the biggest television market, is in sight, the industry changes gears and is looking for something fresh and new to whet the appetites of the international buyers. . . . During this trek around animation town, I absorbed a lot of information from a lot of different sources.

Comedy Blogs

MACHETE (2010) (***)

I heard a story once about Melvin Van Peebles going to see his SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAADASSSSS SONG on opening day with only one other person in the theater, a Black Panther. He went to a later showing and the house was full. That one Black Panther had come back and brought all this friends, who loved the film. I can see the same scenario playing out with this film, only replacing the Black Panther with an illegal immigrant.

Blogs

MACHETE (2010) (***)

I heard a story once about Melvin Van Peebles going to see his SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAADASSSSS SONG on opening day with only one other person in the theater, a Black Panther. He went to a later showing and the house was full. That one Black Panther had come back and brought all this friends, who loved the film. I can see the same scenario playing out with this film, only replacing the Black Panther with an illegal immigrant.

Machete (Danny Trejo, HEAT) was a Federale when his wife and daughter were killed by drug kingpin Torrez (Steven Seagal, UNDER SIEGE). Left for dead, he managed to survive and make his way to the U.S. where he finds work as a day laborer. A businessman named Booth (Jeff Fahey, TV's LOST) makes him an offer of $150,000 to assassinate Senator McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro, HEAT), who is running on an extreme anti-illegal immigrant platform in Texas. What is unknown is that the politician is linked to a border vigilante group led by murderous cop Lt. Stillman (Don Johnson, TV's MIAMI VICE). But when dealing with corrupt men like these men nothing appears as it seems.

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