Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saturday Night Netflix: "Breaking Bad- The Complete First Season"

This is what I'm calling "Saturday Night at the Movies" now, since I kept posting TV shows here.

At the end of the penultimate episode of the first season of Breaking Bad, Walter White wins. He does so in a way that is completely unexpected and spectacularly effective, but entirely in line with his specific characterization—Yes, we say, that’s how Walter could have handled that. The Walter we met at the beginning of the season might not have thought of that way out, or had the balls to carry it through, but the character has grown, changed—we’ve observed the steeling of his resolve, the little moments when this milquetoast man decided he had a little fight in him after all. And after he wins, he goes to his car and sits in the driver’s seat—and the camera holds on him, holds, and then it pushes in, as he celebrates the moment with a growl that seems to explode from the darkest place of his soul.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Please Enjoy These Flavorwires

Interview: Roger Ebert on Movies, Politics, and ‘Life Itself’

Roger Ebert is a very, very good storyteller. That shouldn’t come as a surprise; he has spent the past 40-plus years observing great storytellers (and many not-so-great ones). His new memoir, Life Itself, is filled with terrific tales: getting lost on a drive with Robert Mitchum, going to Stockholm for a set visit with Ingmar Bergman, a trip to an all-night grocery with Russ Meyer and Sid Vicious, an afternoon in New Jersey with Gene Siskel and David Letterman, a night of drinking and chatting with Pauline Kael and a young Martin Scorsese. Some of them may be familiar to longtime readers, but that’s okay; a great story is meant to be retold, and we smile in appreciation at an anecdote we may recall from one of his earlier books, or his interviews, or his blog.

That blog was, in many ways, the beginning of this book. Of writing the memoir, Ebert explains, “I thought it was about time. The experience of serious illness recast my years up until then in a new light for me. My thoughts turned to the past, and as I started to write a blog I found myself falling into an autobiographical mode. I was never shy about speaking, and now, forced to be mute, I found the things I had to say were forcing themselves to the surface in my writing. I didn't ‘need’ to write my memoirs, but I found that—I was.”

Flavorpill’s Incredibly Comprehensive Fall Movie Preview

Ah, fall. The fall movie season is when we film lovers do our very best to shake off a summer’s supply of Transformers, ‘80s remakes, and wilted comic book heroes, and open our arms to the “prestige pictures”: the smart movies for grown-ups that studios trot out as close to Oscar time as possible, so that they can pretend like these are the kind of movies they make all year long. In order to present the most complete picture of fall 2011 at the cinemas, we’ve assembled a comprehensive list of the major fall releases, good and bad alike. Of course, that’s quite a big list of movies, so we’ve boiled our comments down to the basics: who’s in it, what it is, who it’s for, and if we’re in or out. Break out your calendars and join us after the jump.

Open Thread: Who’s Your Celebrity Crush?

Late last week, before everybody lost their damn minds over Irene, there was quite a bit of talk about a video made by Me, Myself, & Irene star Jim Carrey (which was the first time in years that a Carrey movie was getting much in the way of buzz, but I digress). In the homemade, handmade two-minute clip, Mr. Carrey stares intensely into the just-a-little-too-close lens and declares his love and desire for redheaded beauty Emma Stone. While acknowledging the age difference that shall keep them apart (he’s 49 years old to her 22), he takes the opportunity afforded by the Internet to tell her, and anyone else who cares to listen, “I would marry you, and we would have chubby little freckled-faced kids,” imagining the subsequent camping trips and Yahtzee games. But that’s not all! “And the sex…” Carey continues, stopping himself with a sigh and a momentary loss of focus believable enough to send just about any sensible 22-year-old scrambling for a restraining order.

Open Thread: Let’s Talk About George Lucas

Once a work of art is released to the public, who does that art belong to—the artist or the audience? It’s a question that has occupied sociologists and critics for years, but one that has become particularly worthy of contemplation in light of the relationship between Star Wars creator George Lucas and that iconic series’ legion of fans—an alliance already contentious after 14 years of mutual acrimony, made newly heated by the forthcoming Blu-ray release of the entire series.

Our Take On Current TV’s “50 Documentaries to See Before You Die”

Last night, Current TV wrapped up “50 Documentaries to See Before You Die,” a month-long countdown series summarizing the best of non-fiction cinema. And our sympathies go out to the folks at Current, because as we well know, any time you put together a "best of" anything list, you’re going to get second-guessed from here to kingdom come. But let’s put our complaints aside, because a list like this ultimately does more good than harm—any time a cable network can shine a light on great documentary films, we’re all for it, and these are (almost) all genuinely great documentaries. Where we really disagree is in the ranking—they picked the right movies (post-’88, anyway), but they’ve got them in the wrong order. Super Size Me at #5? Seriously? (Yes, yes, of course it’s just a coincidence that the show is hosted by Super Size Me director Morgan Spurlock.) So we’ve taken the 50 titles Current compiled and reorganized then into own top 10, with the reasons why, after the jump.

The Best Deleted Scenes on DVD

Everything Must Go, the low-key but masterful Will Ferrell comedy/drama (based on a Carver short story), hits DVD and Blu-ray today, and as with most recent releases, the disc includes a small selection of deleted scenes. More often than not, there isn’t a hell of a lot of value added by that particular bonus feature; we tend to see a lot of throwaway transition scenes, unnecessary exposition, or scenes so poorly written, directed, and/or played that the filmmakers were clearly wise to chop them. But on occasion, for reasons of pacing or time constraints, scenes are lost that are perfectly good in and of themselves—they merely don’t fit into the final version of the picture. That’s the case with Everything Must Go, which includes several charming little scenes that could easily have made the final cut. So we decided to take a look at some of our favorite deleted scenes on DVD.

The Best and Worst Movies Written by Actors

Today marks the Blu-ray debut of Good Will Hunting, Gus Van Sant’s acclaimed 1997 drama that became the breakthrough film for writer/stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Damon and Affleck weren’t the first frustrated actors who turned to the typewriter to take control of their careers; it’s a common strategy for young actors who can’t get a job, albeit not one that always works out quite as spectacularly. Young actors on the rise aren’t the only ones prone to take a shot at screenwriting, though—more established actors have frequently been known to try their hand at the gig as well, either to redefine themselves and redirect their careers, or to realize a personal, important project. And, let’s be honest, some have probably just done it to satiate their own massive egos. Whatever the case, there’s an abundance of movies written by actors out there; after the jump, we take a look at ten titles, and rank them in order of their artistic (and career-trajectory-influencing) success.

Movie Characters We’d Like to Work With

Happy Labor Day weekend, everybody! Here’s to celebrating work by taking a day off! And when you’re done grilling burgers and drinking too much and getting inappropriately handsy with a neighbor, there’s nothing like settling in for an evening’s entertainment—perhaps with a holiday-appropriate “workplace” movie. We’ve taken a look at a few of our favorite employment-based pictures, and given some thought to which cinematic protagonists we might like to share our quarters with. Check them out after the jump, and add your own in the comments.

Trailer Park: The End of the World

Welcome to “Trailer Park,” our regular Friday feature where we collect the week’s new trailers all in one place and do a little “judging a book by its cover,” ranking them from worst to best and taking our best guess at what they may be hiding. This week, we’ve got seven new chunks of varyingly interesting fall fare; check ‘em all out after the jump.

Trailer Park: From ‘The Human Centipede 2’ to ‘Blowfly’

Welcome to “Trailer Park,” our regular Friday feature where we collect the week’s new trailers all in one place and do a little “judging a book by its cover,” ranking them from worst to best and taking our best guess at what they may be hiding. It’s rather a light week, presumably due to the holiday and/or the kickoff of the Toronto Film Festival (which serves as something of a starter’s pistol for the fall movie season), but you can check out the meager pickins after the jump.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

In Theaters: "The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975"

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is an appropriately and honestly titled film—it is not, it should be stressed, a comprehensive documentary of the Black Power movement, nor does it aim to be. It instead a sort of hybrid of found footage and audio commentary, a pastiche/montage assembled from available pieces, going for an overall mood and feel rather than definitive reportage. The footage that comprises it was shot in the titular years by Swedish television crews, who were intrigued by the anti-war and civil rights movements, and made several voyages to the States, their reporters more open and less jaded than their American counterparts. The footage aired and then went into their archives, where it was recently discovered by Swedish filmmaker Goran Olsson.

In Theaters: "Warrior"

Gavin O’Conner’s Warrior is a working-class, kitchen-sink sports picture that will remind most young viewers of The Fighter and The Wrestler. Older viewers, of course, watched those films while hearing the echoes of the dozens of sports movies they recalled. But those films worked because the skill of the performers and the craftsmanship of the filmmakers lifted them above the admittedly wheezy formulas of their oft-told stories, and for long stretches, Warrior does the same. But the weight of its familiarity ultimately crushes the picture, which tries its hardest but ultimately can’t transcend the clichés it traffics in.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New on Blu: "Radley Metzger’s Erotica Psychadelica"

On-screen eroticism is, so often, such a drab and joyless affair, so utterly free of real color and actual pleasure, that those who create sexual cinema of genuine wit and fun tend to stand out from the pack. Such is the case with Radley Metzger, the incomparable New York distributor-turned-filmmaker who had not one, but two careers in adult cinema: under his own name, directing smart and tastefully “softcore” adult films, often shot in exquisite international locations with impeccable production values, and under the pseudonym of “Henry Paris,” working the other side of the softcore/hardcore divide, yet still bothering to inject those pictures with humor and style. Cult Epics’ new Blu-ray box set Radley Metzger’s Erotica Psychadelica collects three of his finest efforts from the former career, while providing some hint of his metamorphosis into the latter.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On DVD: "Community: The Complete Second Season"

What a strange, beautiful, marvel of a series Community has become, such a wonderfully dizzy sideways approximation of the "situation comedy," yet so far richer and smarter than drab connotations those two words conjure up when placed together. It's a delightfully daft show that continued to push its boundaries in its second season, embracing the self-referential oddness that slowly crept to its surface over the course of its first year, and vibrating with the joy of discovering that there were all of these weird directions that it was free to go in.

Monday, September 5, 2011

On DVD: "Everything Must Go"

When Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) comes home and finds all of his stuff on the lawn and the locks to his house changed, he buzzes the intercom and pleads, "Are you in there? If you are, can this happen another day?" It's not an unreasonable request; he's home from work early because he's been fired from his cushy executive job. It's because of his drinking problem (and a sexual harassment complaint stemming from it). She's not inside, though; she's left him, for good this time. He surveys the accumulation of items spread across the lawn, and decides to have a seat and finish his beer.