Thursday, April 14, 2011

In Theaters: "Square Grouper"

“Square grouper,” if you’re not aware (and I sure as hell wasn’t) is a slang term for a bale of marijuana, tossed overboard or out of a plane; if you happen to find one floating, or washed up on shore, well, looks like you caught yourself some square grouper today. They mostly use the expression down in Florida, and that’s where director Billy Corben finds the three stories that make up his new documentary which bears its name.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On DVD: "Peanuts Double Feature: Snoopy Come Home and A Boy Named Charlie Brown"


Paramount and CBS DVD’s new Peanuts Double Feature puts together, at a bargain price, their previously released DVDs of the first two “Peanuts” feature films, A Boy Named Charlie Brown and Snoopy, Come Home. Released to theaters in 1969 and 1972, following the first burst of wildly successful animated Peanuts TV specials (which continued between and after them), the two films cover similar territory, but in noticeably different styles and tones. Both films are presented here in their full, uncut versions.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hey, more Flavorwire stuff

Warning: “The King’s Speech” You’re Seeing Didn’t Win the Oscar

Consider this a consumer’s warning: If, in the coming weeks, you and yours decide to finally see what all the fuss is about and go check out that British movie with the stuttering dude, you may very well not see the movie that won the Oscar for Best Picture two nights ago. Wait, what?

10 Movies That Were Better Than The Book

Though many would consider Connelly’s books to be serviceable genre potboilers rather than fine literature, this may very well be a case where the movie is better than the book—the exception to the rule. Or is it? The notion that film adaptations of novels are always inferior to the original isn’t always borne out by the facts; join us after a jump for a look at ten movies that (we think) were better than the book.

Required Listening: 10 Influential Comedy Albums

Opening today in limited release, American: The Bill Hicks Story is an excellent documentary profiling the now-legendary stand-up comic and social satirist. Hicks was very much on the rise when he died of pancreatic cancer back in 1994 (he was only 32); in the years since his untimely demise, his reputation has only continued to grow. Much of that is due to his nine scathingly brilliant comedy albums — seven of them released posthumously, all among the most beloved stand-up discs of recent years. In celebration of his legacy, we decided to take a look at some of the most influential comedy albums of all time; take a look after the jump, and add your picks in the comments.

10 Famous Authors Who Went Hollywood

In the late 1920s, newspaper columnist, reporter, playwright, and Algonquin wit Herman J. Mankiewicz moved from New York, the hotbed of American literary activity, to Hollywood. A few months later, he sent this cable to his writer friend Ben Hecht: “Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots. Don’t let this get around.” Sooner or later, though, it did. Since their inception, the moving pictures have offered scribes the opportunity for comparatively easy money—a few weeks’ work dashing off a screenplay or a punch-up job, subsidize the year it’s going to take to write The Great American Novel.

The 10 Best ’30 Rock’ Guest Appearances

30 Rock fans often split on the show’s frequent use of guest stars; some say they’re too reliant on them, while others insist that Fey and her writing staff often find ingenious ways for celebrities to send up their own images or bring their comedic gifts to off-the-wall characters. We lean towards the latter point-of-view (with occasional exceptions—even we weren’t nuts about Jennifer Aniston’s episode). So with an eye on the upcoming Tom Hanks guest shot, we took a look back at some of our favorite 30 Rock guest appearances. In the interest of brevity, we restricted ourselves to folks who only appeared once, so you’ll not find recurring favorites like Will Arnett’s Devon Banks, Jon Hamm’s Dr. Drew Baird, or Isabella Rosellini’s Biana Donaghy (“You know I love my big beef n’ cheddar!”). Check out our picks—and agree or disagree in the comments—after the jump.

Required Viewing: Richard Leacock and the Essentials of Direct Cinema

The direct cinema directors and cameraman saw the development of lightweight 16mm Arriflex film cameras and Nagra’s mobile audio gear in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a way to shake all of that up. In the process, they created a vital new film form. In honor of Leacock, join us after the jump for a look at a few of the touchstones of the movement.

10 Films and TV Shows Unjustly Killed by Competition

Parallel thinking is nothing new in Hollywood—hell, there’s half a dozen (no exaggeration) Peter Pan-related projects in development now, and nearly as many re-bootings, re-imaginings, and re-whatevers of Wizard of Oz and Snow White in the pipeline. Sometimes executives, writers, and producers just have the same ideas (or the idea to go back to the same ideas) at the same time. Often, competing projects will disappear as one gets into production first—but sometimes that game of Hollywood chicken leads to multiple versions of, basically, the same movie or TV show making it all the way to release (witness Deep Impact and Armageddon, Dante’s Peak and Volcano, 1492: Conquest of Paradise and Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, and many more). Usually, the better project ultimately wins the respect of critics and audiences—though there have been a few occasions when the second place runner is unfairly overlooked. Join us after the jump for a few unjustly forgotten runners-up.

10 of the MPAA’s Biggest Rating Mistakes

As Slate recently reported, a team of social scientists took a look at the board’s decisions and found that, to no one’s surprise, films distributed by MPAA members are (on average) about 7 percent less likely to receive an R rating than the films that aren't. That information certainly goes a long way towards explaining some of the group’s more befuddling decisions—movies that should have been R (or worse) but weren’t, and movies that got an R (or worse) for no good reason. We’ve compiled ten of the MPAA’s most bewildering calls below.

10 Boundary-Breaking Movie Sex Scenes [NSFW]

If Bart is telling the truth — and he tends to be pretty credible — then Don’t Look Now would presumably mark the first occasion of unsimulated sexual intercourse in a mainstream motion picture. With that belated honor bestowed, let’s take a NSFW look at some of the other boundary-breaking sex scenes of cinema.

10 Movie Scenes and the Foods They Ruined Forever

We love us some Anthony Bourdain, but we’ve gotta say this: the list of his five favorite foodie films that he offered up to Entertainment Weekly is about as spontaneous as a Domino’s Pizza delivery capping off a long night of weed-smoking. Yes, Big Night, of course. And Eat Drink Man Woman, yawn. In Bourdain’s defense, we couldn’t think up that many other ones either—maybe there just aren’t that many rhapsodically hunger-inducing movies. More often than not, movies use food for a more insidious reason: to gross us out. So we’ve compiled something of a reverse to the Bourdain list—ten movies that put us off of the foodstuffs in question. Take a look (hopefully on an empty stomach) after the jump.

TV Shows That Did Their Classic Predecessors Proud

TV is a tricky business, and more often than not, the creator or primary creative force behind a big hit will go into their next series, guns a-blazing, only to find that television audiences are more fickle than they thought. Steven Bochco followed Hill Street Blues with Bay City Blues; Garry Marshall and Thomas L. Miller followed The Odd Couple with Me and the Chimp; West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin’s next show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, was a costly one-season flop for NBC; M*A*S*H show runners Gene Reynolds and Larry Gelbart’s Karen folded after five months; Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Gilmore Girls follow-up The Return of Jezebel James lasted a mere three episodes; Mitchell Hurwitz’s Running Wilde reunited him with Arrested Development stars Will Arnett and David Cross but ran only spottily on Fox last fall before disappearing altogether. However, there are occasions where a TV series manages to equal (or even surpass) the critical and popular success of its predecessor. Join us after the jump for a look at ten television shows where lightning struck twice.

The 10 Least Surprising Pop Culture Flops

Since the Sheen stage show was never anything but a terrible nightmare of an idea, its failure is far from surprising. After the jump, we’ll take a look at ten more pop culture items—books, films, TV shows, music—that shocked absolutely no one by flopping. (And we left off the Spider-Man musical, because we simply can’t bring ourselves to talk about both that and Sheen, again, in the same post.) Check out our list, and add your own flops in the comments.

10 Movie Remakes We’re Actually Looking Forward To

It’s no secret that Hollywood has gone remake crazy; along with endless sequels and mindless 3-D, the film business’s insistence on remaking any movie made before 1990 that turned more than a five dollar profit is perhaps its most irritating quality. But lest we forget, The Maltese Falcon was a remake; so were The Thing, The Departed, and Scarface. So, in the interest of putting a positive spin on remake-mania, we took a look at the dozens (seriously, there’s a lot of them) of remakes in the pipeline and found ten that we’re genuinely excited about. Check them out after the jump.

‘Hanna’ and Other Vengeful Youth in Film

Joe Wright’s Hanna, hitting theaters tomorrow, is the tale of a tough, ruthless teenage girl (played by Wright’s Atonement star Saoirse Ronan), trained as an assassin by her ex-CIA agent father (Eric Bana) in the Finnish wilds and sent on a killer mission. Though the cold-hearted young female killer is a fairly novel heroine, it’s not a completely new cinematic creation, either; join us after the jump for a look at some of our favorites from films past.

10 More Celebrities Who Should Be Fired

Unemployment numbers remain depressing in America, but this rash of pink slips was (our own karma be damned) probably for the best. In fact, it could be the start of a valuable trend in popular culture; this could just be the beginning of some much-needed dismissals. We’ve compiled a list of ten more pop culture figures who should be fired; check it out after the jump, and make your own additions in the comments.

10 Ill-Advised Celebrity Interviews

It is difficult to refrain from piling on to the Charlie Sheen nightmare, since this is clearly a sick man—mentally, physically, psychologically—who is losing his reality right before our very eyes. But it is his willingness to do so—to have an Elvis-style damn-the-torpedoes meldown in the full view of cameras who are, y’know, recording this—that is the real miscalculation. Why doesn’t Charlie just disappear somewhere with his hookers and blow and go buck wild, instead of sitting down for TV interview after TV interview and insisting he’s just fine when he’s clearly, clearly, insane? Then again, if there’s one piece of delusional behavior that celebrities have never been able to resist, it’s the misguided notion that, in the midst of a PR nightmare, they can “get in front of the story” by sitting down for a TV interview and showing themselves to actually be sane and normal and even a victim; that they can close their eyes and make it so with the power of their minds, to paraphrase The Sheen. It seldom works, of course (there’s Hugh Grant and… anybody else?). More often than not, it just makes for a train wreck.

Gallery: Dan Sherratt’s Gorgeous Posters for Great Films

UK illustrator Dan Sherratt is one of the most gifted of the current crop of graphic artists who are bringing modern tools and concepts to the movie poster format, creating eye-catching new art for classic pictures and modern favorites. The prolific artist posts regularly at eatsleeplivefilm.com and at his own Shop Reworking Titles blog, in addition to being a featured artist at Reelizer. Dan’s latest series really caught our eye: it’s an inventive trio of posters for the films of Christopher Nolan. Check them out after the jump, along with some of our other favorites from Sherratt’s sites.

Judging Countries By Their Covers: East vs. West Movie Posters

A couple weeks back, we took a side-by-side look at the US and UK book jackets for several of our favorite books to see if you could, indeed, judge a country by its covers. Then we got to thinking about the posters that different countries attach to American films that make their way to their shores; there’s plenty of classic Hollywood advertising iconography out there, but more often than not, studio marketing departments play it very safe when they’re advertising their movies (simple designs, big pictures of actors’ faces, etc.)—always have, always will. Independent artists and designers are having quite a bit of fun nowadays taking an artier pass at classic movies, but what about foreign distributors? Then, lo and behold, we stumbled upon this post from Cruzine: a brief history of the film posters of Poland and Czechoslovakia, complete with wonderful examples. Join us after the jump to check out how the East saw the films of the West, and which designs we prefer.

Video of the Day: Disney’s 1939 Behind-the-Scenes Short

Nowadays, the behind-the-scenes featurette is a standard part of Hollywood’s promotional toolbox—prepared by the studio, released to media outlets, and slapped onto the DVD as a “special feature.” But the good folks at Open Culture have discovered what is presumably one of the earliest examples of the form (it’s certainly the oldest one we’ve ever seen): How Walt Disney Cartoons are Made, an eight-and-a-half minute look behind the doors of the studio (“Doors usually barred to all visitors!”) and at the making of the first full-length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Video of the Day: James Bond Gets a ‘Hangover’

The golden age of the mashup video may have passed, but every once in a while some clever YouTuber comes along with a clip that shows that the form still has a little life in it yet.

Rate-a-Trailer: ‘Captain America’

Okay, we’ll say it: We’re tired of superhero movies. The saturation point has long passed; thanks to the success of the Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and X-Men franchises, it now seems that any caped hero who ever appeared in the pages of a comic book is a worthwhile subject for a major motion picture—in spite of the fact that, with the exception of the films mentioned above (and not even all of them—how ya doin, X-Men: The Last Stand) and a few scattered others, most comic book movies are downright putrid. So please, please, bear that bias in mind when we tell you that, much to our chagrin, the new trailer for Captain America: The First Avenger looks awesome.

Rate-a-Trailer: HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’

Time for a confession that should thoroughly alienate a good portion of our readership: I don’t like The Lord of the Rings. Okay, let’s be fair: I don’t really know The Lord of the Rings. I never read the books, and only saw the first movie—and that was the original theatrical cut, which was only, what, six hours long? Point is, that was enough. Not my cup of tea. So I’m as surprised as anyone to be genuinely excited by the new trailer for HBO’s upcoming medieval fantasy series Game of Thrones.