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Movies Tag

noconcessionsTwenty years ago, more than two million Brits tried to buy tickets to see Oasis at Knebworth, and 250,000 concertgoers experienced the band at its height over two evenings. “Two nights sold out,” comments Noel Gallagher, as footage from aerial cameras captures the enormous audience. No stranger to hyperbole, he adds, “We could’ve sold out seven. We might still be playing!”

Tomorrow night only, experience peak Oasis on the big screen in Supersonic, which begins and ends at Knebworth. The documentary spends much of its two hours in reduced

noconcessionsSeptember is pretty much a dead zone for movies, but the industry started bringing out the bodies anyway. From now through awards season we’ll be getting entries from the top (Natalie Portman as Jackie) to the, umm, bottom (King Cobra, the story of gay porn star  Brent Corrigan).

Sully pretty much salvaged last month’s boxoffice. It’s not hard to see why–it has uplift, tension, and Tom Hanks in its favor. The “miracle on the Hudson” is excitingly reenacted. With my infant daughter on my lap in January 2009 I remember watching the local news reports roll in, awestruck at the accomplishment.

Trouble is, the “miracle” only lasted 208 seconds. That leaves Clint Eastwood’s account with

spinning discsCGI animals, the unflappable (and unkillable) Bruce Campbell, and a naked Ralph Fiennes are among the highlights of recent weeks. Let’s get out our pith helmets (and, for Bruce, chainsaws attached to our stumps) and explore.

ashStranger Things, Stranger Things, Stranger Things. Everyone’s talking about Stranger Things. Me, I’ll get to it, as it sits on the same “Great Unwatched” pile as Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, The Wire, and every streaming show except Amazon’s excellent Transparent. What do Transparent (back tomorrow) and Ash vs. Evil Dead, a Starz show returning to the airwaves next week, have in common? One outstanding attribute: They’re both a half-hour long, making it easier for me to binge a few episodes and feel I’ve made progress. Five hours of deadite

noconcessionsThe Light Between Oceans, which opens today, is best viewed at 10pm Monday night. All that gloom will sink in and replace any sense of three-day weekend cheer, leaving you drained and heavy-hearted and in the proper frame of mind to tackle the work week. Resignation is pretty much all I felt while watching it.

Which is not to say that The Light Between Oceans is a total loss. It is, at least, handsome, a post-Great War drama shot way, way Down Under, under the direction of Derek Cianfrance. His prior films, Blue Valentine (2010) and The Place Beyond the Pines (2013), were strictly bridge and tunnel, and the thought of getting away to locations in Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand, dressed in period regalia, must have

spinning discsWhat does a home theater reviewer with limited access to his home theater over the last few months do when he can finally get back to his movie cave? Catch up, of course. Here’s ten (or so) releases worth considering now that the flood damage is a memory.

It’s a good year for animal movies, and I don’t mean The Secret Life of Pets. There was The Lobster, and there is, from Cohen Media Group, Rams, a comic gem from Iceland about two elderly brothers, renowned shepherds, whose long estrangement is obliged to end when

noconcessionsIt happens every April–movies, movies, and more movies crash into theaters and onto VOD, clamoring for attention before tentpole season begins. What to see? Besides my personal best of the year, some still playing (and one yet to open), here’s a rundown.

Musician biopics–Hank Williams (I Saw the Light), Miles Davis (Miles Ahead), and Nina Simone (Nina) have been off-key this year. Better is Born to be Blue, with Ethan Hawke more than credible as the heroin-addled Chet Baker, in an impressionistic account of the trumpeter’s comeback after dealers

spinning discsFirst off: Hey, I’m branded. Hats off to our multitalented Dw. Dunphy for the new logo.

And now…let’s go to the movie cave and spin some discs.

The biggest hit of 2015 is poised to be the blockbuster Blu-ray of 2016. Star Wars: The Force Awakens and is available to own early on digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere today, and comes home to disc next week. Of course you want it for your collection. Even if you didn’t love the movie, it’s highly unlikely that you

noconcessionsI hate to be the guy who walks out of a late night screening of the weekend’s blockbuster to say “Jesus, that was flat-out terrible,” but, Jesus, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is flat-out terrible. Ballyhooed for years, marketed to death for months, the actual thing was bound to disappoint. But did it have to disappoint so badly?

The brutal reviews have been too kind. Maybe it’ll make a billion dollars, and launch the parade of spinoffs and sequels that are constantly, exasperatingly signposted throughout. But if I can spare anyone

noconcessionsWhere’s the sequel/reboot/rehash action right now, before Batman v’s Superman and a second Greek wedding takes place to boot? Not in theaters, where the first part of the two-part (groan) Divergent wind-up Allegiant is playing, and only the few committed fans gave a damn. No, it’s on Netflix, where Pee-wee Herman has returned, in Pee-wee’s Big Holiday.

TV has been kindest to Paul Reubens’ lovably eccentric man-child, with HBO showcasing Pee-wee in an HBO special in 1981 and the Emmy-winning Pee-wee’s Playhouse delighting a generation of kids whose own kids don’t know what Saturday morning programming was all about. (There’s none left on the major networks.) Reubens converted Playhouse into a Broadway hit in the 2010-2011 season. The movies were up–then way, way down. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, a surprise hit in 1985, did more to define the character for an audience of a certain

noconcessionsThere are two components to the Academy Awards. One is the awards show, this Sunday night on ABC. I feel for returning host Chris Rock, who will have to be very deft indeed to navigate the program through the shoals of controversy it’s found itself in. #OscarsSoWhite threatens #OscarsSoEarnest, with much hand-wringing and regret over diversity. Well-intended it will be, necessary it will be–but, please, let’s have a few jokes, too.

Then there are the awards themselves, which after a longer-than-usual period of fluidity and second-guessing have solidified into a winning slate. Or seem to have solidified–there may be surprises yet. Bear in mind that while I’ve won my Oscar pool over the last few years it’s usually with 17 or 18 correct guesses, so if you have a

noconcessionsCall it War and Precipitation. Sandwiched between the broader releases of Kung Fu Panda 3 and Zootopia is this Canadian-produced animated feature, which is now playing in a few theaters nationwide. Based on a story popular among children of our Northern neighbor, Snowtime! is an adaptation of a Quebecois live-action hit from 1984, known Stateside as The Dog Who Stopped the War. At home, it received a bells and whistles 3D release and was a success. Here, it’s natural home will be home video, but if you’ve already taken your kids to see Po and it happens to be

Given that director Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig have said that their favorite Bond film is the dire Live and Let Die (1973), we’re lucky that the Oscar-winning smash Skyfall (2012) turned out as well as it did. The more lumpen Spectre begins by referencing Live and Let Die, and never really recovers from that bad mojo. It’s one of those series entries that can’t top its exciting opening sequence, which, for some, will be instantly spoiled by its reviled (yet: Oscar-nominated! Golden Globe-winning!) theme song. But it doesn’t fade into oblivion, either, and winds up in the middle of the pack, buoyed by some other snazzily staged and photographed setpieces. With SPECTRE back in the fold, however, more was expected, not an unsuccessful family saga that’s supposed to tie together the Craig era. Legend has it that when John Huston departed Hollywood for World War II, he prankishly left the not-quite-finished Across the Pacific (1942) in an awful bind, plotwise, for the next director to clean up–with Mendes apparently gone, it’ll be a job of work moving Bond 25 past winking self references and the story knots the series is now in.

The Blu-ray of Spectre may be the first of several, as the series is repackaged and new supplements are added. It looks fantastic, with the transfer handling the dust of Mexico City and the dark of night in Rome with equal precision, and the lossless DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio track is a

noconcessionsDeadpool is like a teaser for a Trump presidency–loud, boorish, and stupid. Stuck with the aging X-Men and the not-so-Fantastic Four, the poor cousins at the Fox branch of the Marvelverse have taken the latest entrant in the superhero sweepstakes in a rare R-rated direction, and the results are grungier, slobbier, and meaner than the more tasteful product that rolls off the Disney assembly lines.

Deadpool, the transformed persona of the motormouthed mercenary Wade Wilson, has a tortured history in the comics, and a briefer one onscreen. His antics enlivened the rock-bottom X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), and, as a reward, despite career reversals, Ryan Reynolds is back to play him. Last seen

51K6rwCzP5LCold War comfort food, Bridge of Spies is something I’d never thought I’d see from Steven Spielberg, an old man’s movie. Watching it a second time was like spending a couple of hours half-interested in Cozi TV, as The Lone Ranger or Here’s Lucy or some other relic calms you down before bedtime. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s an unadventurous one, telling us what we’ve been told about America, the Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe, and not delving at all deeply into that past (which isn’t past) or murkier topics brought up, like the U-2 spy plane incident that sets its second act in motion. Lacking the more inquisitive spirit of Schindler’s List (1993) or Munich (2005), and the outsize personalities of Lincoln (2012), it could inspire a hashtag: #OscarsSoUninspired. It’s up for six, and only Mark Rylance earns his for his

Snowbound here in Brooklyn. So it’s a perfect time to review some favorites of mine, some of them award winners, some of them in contention, some of them deserving to be in contention, and some of them…not. In alphabetical order.

American FriendThe American Friend: Carol, from a Patricia Highsmith novel, is up for several Academy Awards this year. That lesbian romance is a far cry from her famed thrillers, a number centered on the wandering con man Tom Ripley. Ripley’s Game was made into a good, traditional movie in 2002, starring John Malkovich in a part previously played

noconcessionsTwenty years ago, Rumble in the Bronx proved an unexpected hit in the US, and Jackie Chan, a star everywhere but here, saw his Hollywood fortunes rise. Jet Li followed in his footsteps, and in 2008 the two were paired in The Forbidden Kingdom. On his own, Chan would have one more success, in the remake of The Karate Kid (2010), and Li joined The Expendables. As they aged and the market shifted, however, their careers mostly returned to Asia–the two excellent Raid movies, from Indonesia, and films starring Thailand’s gifted but erratic Tony Jaa, didn’t see much mainstream action here.

Enter a new dragon–Donnie Yen. Ip Man 3, which goes into release today, isn’t going to command the thousands of screens Chan and Li did in their prime. And, at age 52, with a

Happy New Year? Well, it was, until the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases showed up. Brace yourselves…

Let’s start with the baleful Sicario, which, if it were a silent movie with music accompaniment, would be just about perfect. Splendidly arid widescreen visuals, attractive performers moodily posed, an atmospheric score propelling some excitingly edited sequences. Four stars. But: content, which I already groused about. An underperformer with audiences, Sicario overperformed

noconcessionsThe Force Awakens…more slowly for some than for most. Unless I write this in Mandarin, for a Chinese audience that won’t see it until the weekend, there’s no point in reviewing the new Star Wars movie–the bones have been picked clean. It’s like the first one, or the fourth one. I saw it four times on Christmas Day, two weeks ago. It’s made $1.6 billion without any mainland Chinese seeing it.  Han Solo’s

But I can update one of my more popular pieces, written almost four years ago, on the 35th anniversary of the movie I knew as Star Wars, but which my kids know as Star Wars: A New Hope. (The first one to me, the fourth one to them.) Including the deathless line: “It’s best that the show is over.”

Not hardly. Four billion forked over to George Lucas by Disney later (cheap) and here we are, one movie into a trio of sequels, with three spinoffs set to go. Director J.J. Abrams had to thread carefully

noconcessionsThe David O. Russell who made the edgy Flirting with Disaster (1996) and Three Kings (1999) is a different David O. Russell from the one who makes hit movies with Jennifer Lawrence today. It’s obviously a winning combination, sweetened with Oscar nominations and an Academy Award for her for Silver Linings Playbook (2012). But I’m immune to their chemistry, finding that film hopelessly contrived and the followup, American Hustle (2013) borderline silly, a game of movie star dress-up adapted from true events. I got that sinking feeling pretty quickly with their latest, Joy, which begins with, and occasionally returns to, scenes from a banal soap opera, stiffly

noconcessionsA funny thing happened to comedy directors Jay Roach (of the Austin Powers movies and Meet the Parents) and Adam McKay (Anchorman)–they became political filmmakers. For HBO, Roach made Recount (2008) and Game Change (2012), and now has the biopic Trumbo in release. McKay, who directed his longtime collaborator Will Ferrell in the pointed Broadway satire You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush (2009), returns to the arena with an adaptation of Michael Lewis’ bestseller about the financial meltdown, The Big Short.

Both new films show the advantage of a light touch, and the downside. Trumbo, from the life of the blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter, is a lively example of the “movies about movies and moviemakers” genre that springs up every awards season, but almost too cartoonish, and in simplifying a complex history slurs Edward G. Robinson and John Wayne, whose involvement in the era wasn’t so clearcut. Realizing we’ll soon be drowning

noconcessionsEight observations about The Hateful Eight, which opens Christmas Day.

If you think you’ll recoil from the words “nigger,” “bitch,” “fuck,” and other obscenities, often (and I do mean often) colorfully combined for about 90 minutes, if (after an intermission) you think you’ll shrink from torture, dismemberment (teeth, testicles, etc.), and tremendous bloody violence (and more obscenities) for another 90 minutes…suffice it to say, The Hateful Eight is not a safe space for you this holiday season.

If you think you can make it without struggle, there are compensations. Viewed as a roadshow presentation, filmed in a widescreen format dormant for 50 years, cinephiles can get their geek on, enjoying the texture of

noconcessionsUnlike some film critics, I have no outstanding Ron Howard issues. Maybe A Beautiful Mind (2001) was too on the nose as Oscar bait, and, yes, he directs with an audience and not any kind of auteurist ranking foremost in mind, but “A Ron Howard Movie” on the big screen doesn’t bug me. He’s hit doubles (Splash, Cocoon), and triples (Apollo 13), and, with his last film, Rush (2013), a home run, one of the best movies ever made about competitive sports. Reuniting with that film’s star, Chris Hemsworth, for an adaptation of one of my favorite recent history books, Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea (2001)–ahoy, mateys!

And he’s made from it…A Ron Howard Movie. One whose release was pushed back from March to today, which is always suspicious

noconcessionsSylvester Stallone was 30 when Rocky, which he wrote and starred intook critics and audiences by surprise in 1976. As Rocky’s trainer, Burgess Meredith was 69 when he received an Oscar nomination for the film. Now, at age 69 himself, Stallone steps outside the ring–not for Rocky VII (or would that be Rocky Balboa II?), but for Creed. And the new duties, which find the beloved palooka assisting another fighter and extending a 40-year-old franchise in an unexpected and rewarding new direction, fit him like a fresh pair of boxing gloves.

Stallone, who graduated to directing the bulk of the sequels, has never been the best manager

Christmas is practically around the corner. Black Friday sales are soon to begin–some already have. (The complete Lost in Space Blu-ray set for just $74.99 on Amazon? Danger, Mastercard, danger!) Time to browse new and recent DVD and Blu-ray releases and get prepped for the holidays.

Let’s begin with a summer sleeper, The Gift–a gift that keeps on giving fans of well-crafted suspense tales. Making his feature debut as director, actor and screenwriter Joel Edgerton (Black Mass) raises the hackles as a friendly if somewhat off-balance fellow who turns up the doorstep of a married couple (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) who have relocated to the husband’s hometown. But there’s more to this gift-giving welcome wagon than meets the eye–or is it Bateman, carrying the weight of long-ago secrets, the one we should be wary of? The answers aren’t so clearcut, the ending queasily ambiguous, which put some viewers off–but really, didn’t the rest also also leave you nervous, in a good way? The bad vibes