Friday, October 21, 2011

Your Friday Link Machine

From The Village Voice:
Mangella Logs on to 78th Street

The Drilling Company and Project Theater’s Mangella is an odd piece of work. The first act of this sci-fi/comedy/cyber-thriller is both clever and inexplicable: mixing inventive set pieces and pure oddity, it entertains yet sorely lacks in cohesion. But the second act draws the disjointed elements together ingeniously; it’s a high-wire act you keep expecting to turn disastrous, yet somehow does not.

From Flavorwire:
Your Flavorwire Guide to Facebook Etiquette

Here’s an uncontroversial opinion: I like Facebook. (Really going out on a limb for you guys today.) My affection for the social network is primarily one of laziness—I like the fact that I can just post stuff there instead of having to bother to, y’know, keep in touch with relatives and old friends. Saves hours of awkward telephone conversation. But it’s not just a question of practicality; there are wise and witty Facebook users out there (maybe you’re one of them!), people who’ve formulated the proper elixir of macro and micro, sharing thought-provoking links and posting charming photos and compositing wry and pithy status messages.

But some people are, simply put, doing it wrong, and the situation is getting out of control. It’s time we get together and agree on a few common sense rules of the online road, some little irritants that are becoming more commonplace and threatening, as my teachers used to say, to ruin it for everyone. The soul who speaks up to voice these complaints risks being called a curmudgeon (as I was when formulating this piece—thanks again, wife!) and sounding like some kind of Millennial Andy Rooney. So be it. I’ll take the hit. After the jump, a few not-unreasonable “requests” (hey, see what I did there?) for Facebook etiquette.

The Creepiest “Family Movies” of All Time

The fine folks at Warner Brothers are taking the opportunity today to release their umpteenth home video version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory—this time in an elaborately packaged “40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition” deluxe Blu-ray set. Included in the $65 box, according to, are “a 144-page book featuring color photos and notes, a Wonka Bar pencil tin with scented pencils and eraser and a Wonka Bar box with archival production letters.” What, no chicken and butcher knife?

Yes, Willy Wonka may be going on 40 years as a beloved family classic, but it also contains tiny indentured servants, a kid transmogrifying into a giant blueberry, and an out-of-left-field sequence of sheer terror that has haunted the nightmares of generations of kids. We’ll take a look at that scene, and nine more family classics that are similarly creepy, after the jump.

The Best Ensemble Casts in Movie History

Margin Call, a fact-based thriller concerning the beginning of the financial crisis, opens tomorrow with a stellar ensemble cast that includes Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanely Tucci, Zachary Quinto, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker, and Mary McDonnell. (And Demi Moore. Hey, can’t win ‘em all.) Throw in last month’s Contagion (featuring Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Bryan Cranston, Marion Cottilard, and Elliot Gould) and December’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (with Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, and Mark Strong), and this is starting to look like the Season of the Ensemble. In celebration of these smart, adult movies flush with Oscar winners and fine character performers, we’ve assembled some of our favorite big-cast ensemble movies after the jump—check it out, and throw in your own in the comments.

Trailer Park: Sex, Screams, and Sequels

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. We’ve got seven new trailers this week, mostly of the artsie-indie breed, though there’s a couple of genre picks in there as well. Check ‘em out after the jump.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

In Theaters: "Revenge of the Electric Car"

Chris Paine's 2006 film Who Killed the Electric Car? was an earnest and well-meaning documentary, though one that was ultimately harmed by its infomercial iconography and reliance on whiny, C-list celebrities as protagonists. His follow-up, Revenge of the Electric Car, is a far stronger picture; given three years' access to the powers-that-be behind the auto industry, Paine's new film is less about full-throated advocacy and more about good, solid documentary storytelling. It's a switch that suits him well.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On DVD: "Page One: Inside the New York Times"

David Carr, media columnist for the New York Times, says that when he ends an interview, “most subjects have a question of their own: What’s gonna happen to the New York Times?” It’s a question that is compellingly asked (if not really answered, because it honestly can’t be) by Andrew Rossi’s new documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times, a look at the day-to-day operation of a venerable organization that is doing its very best not to go the way of the dinosaur.

On DVD: "Red State"

“This isn’t funny any more!” one of the boys yells, over and over again, about twenty minutes into Kevin Smith’s Red State. “This isn’t funny any more!” He’s talking about the events on screen, of course, which have seen a rather depressing online sex rendezvous turn into a drugged kidnapping. But it’s also a none-too-subtle nod to the filmmaker, a specialist of slacker comedy who has taken an unexpected and surprisingly effective turn towards darker and more sinister subject matter.

Monday, October 17, 2011

#NYFF Wrap-Ups

The New York Film Fest is over, and I have a sads.

Two wrap-up pieces:

Due to too many damned commitments, I didn't get to go to as many films as I'd like, but ah well. There's always next year.

On DVD: "Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest"

Michael Rapaport’s Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest opens with footage from the group’s 2008 headlining spot on the Rock the Bells tour. The footage is slowed-down, though, accompanied by semi-provocative interview snippets. The sound is eerie, almost ghostly, but in a way that’s appropriate—the picture summons spirits of hip-hop and lets them rattle around for a while, for old time’s sake. The energy of the music crackles through every frame.

It is also a story of collaborative tension—seen from the beginning, as leader Q-Tip is shown, in a shaky, hand-held shot, despairing of the group and announcing its end backstage at the show. “I did everything I could do,” he proclaims. “Twenty years!” And with that, Rapaport revisits those twenty years.

On DVD: "Bad Teacher"

For the past several years, word has been that when Ghostbusters III is finally made (i.e., when they pin Bill Murray down, since no one else involved is doing much of anything), they’ll be shooting a supposedly wonderful screenplay by Gene Stupinsky and Lee Eisenberg, best known for their work on The Office. As the years pass and we see more of the duo’s work, this news becomes more and more distressing. First came the fitfully amusing but mostly uninspired Year One; now we have Bad Teacher, which (like their earlier screenplay) basically comes up with one interesting idea, and expects it to carry the entire film. I am not filled with high hopes for their Ghostbusters script.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

This Week's Links

From the Maddow Blog:
Politics Goes to the Movies: 'The Ides of March'

According to Entertainment Weekly, George Clooney ran into President Obama at a fund-raising event last spring as he was finishing up production on his new political thriller The Ides of March (which, full disclosure, includes a cameo performance by one Rachel Anne Maddow). When he told the President about the film, according to Clooney, Obama asked, “Should we screen it?” to which Clooney replied, “Absolutely not!" When you get a look at The Ides of March, you see what he means.

From Flavorwire:
Open Thread: Are Movie Trailers Too Dishonest?

Over the past couple of months, your Flavorwire (and many, many, many other publications and websites) has been singing the praises of Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn’s brutal, brilliant, ‘80s-tinged existential action movie. But over the weekend, The Hollywood Reporter broke the story of an audience member who was litigiously less impressed. Michigan moviegoer Sarah Deming is suing Drive’s distributor, FilmDistrict, because they… hold on, you’re gonna love this… “promoted the film Drive as very similar to the Fast and Furious, or similar, series of movies.”

That’s right, folks: Ms. Deming is taking FilmDistrict to court because Drive couldn’t fulfill its promise to reach the artistic heights of the Fast and Furious pictures.

Our Favorite Horror Hybrid Movies for Halloween

For film fans who are not entirely obsessed with the horror genre, October can be a long and lonely month indeed, since we’re seemingly expected to spend our every spare movie-viewing moment consuming horror movies as a kind of extended Halloween celebration. The trouble is, some of us just aren’t that nuts about horror movies—but there’s all of these “31 Days of Horror” and “October Horror Movie Challenge” threads, and nobody wants to be the killjoy who spoils the party. But remember this, fellow indifferent film fanatics: the nice thing about the horror genre is that it’s adaptable. Elements of the scary movie not only can be easily combined with those forms you’re more at home with, but have been. After the jump, we’ll take a look at a few of our favorite horror hybrid movies.

10 Disappointing Movie Comedy Teams

Nestled among this week’s new theatrical releases is The Big Year, a rather syrupy looking Bucket List riff co-starring Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson. Let’s be clear: we have not yet seen it. But we’re not holding out much hope for a movie that puts those three guys together and cannot find one single laugh to put in a trailer. How could you combine three men as (granted, not always reliably) funny as these and not come up with a laugh riot? Quite easily, turns out. The recent cinema is all but littered with pictures that teamed up established comedic talents and thus sounded like sure-fire crowd pleasers, but which ended up tickling the funny bones of neither critics nor moviegoers. After the jump, we’ll run down ten comic combinations that misfired.

Javier Bardem Is (Officially) Your Next Bond Villain

Javier Bardem, who crafted one of the most chilling screen villains in recent memory with his Oscar-winning turn in No Country For Old Men, has confirmed that he’s taking on another nefarious role: Bond villain. Rumors have circulated for months that the once-and-forever Anton Chigurh was circling the latest Bond movie, known for now only as Bond 23, which will mark Daniel Craig’s third time in the role. Oscar-winner Sam Mendes (American Beauty) will direct.

Trailer Park: Superheroes and Sleeping Beauties

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. We’ve got eight new trailers this week, running the gamut from a big-budget superhero all-star tentpole to indies about cross-dressing and prostitution. Check ‘em out after the jump.

#NYFF Review: "Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel"

Roger Corman, 85 years old, is currently credited on imdb with producing 395 films—three of which are currently in post-production. This is not the filmography of a man who is in it for a buck, or he’d have retired long ago. He is in it because he loves the movies, the sheer act of making one. That love is present and palpable in the worst of his no-budget turkeys; it’s there in the madcap opening sequence of the new documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, in which director Alex Stapleton is all but drunk on those movies, on those goofy images of monsters and mayhem and babes and boobs. Corman wasn’t a serious filmmaker, but Corman’s World takes him seriously—as an exploiter, and as an artist, and often as both simultaneously. It’s an obscenely good time of a movie, the same sort of “inside the outside of Hollywood” fun delivered by films like Not Quite Hollywood and American Grindhouse.