Friday, May 18, 2012

In Theaters: "Beyond the Black Rainbow"

There was a bit of a stampede for the exits around the 30-minute mark at the press screening of Beyond the Black Rainbow; that’s apparently the universally accepted minimum viewing time for critics (at least here), and some viewers will certainly make for the doors before then. You can’t really blame them; this is one weird, inert little movie, with infinitely more interest in look and mood than story. But the direction is so unwavering and self-confident, we’re drawn in anyway. A good chunk of those who toughed the movie out loathed it anyway. But there’s something wonderfully admirable about how utterly uncompromising it is.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

In Theaters: "Indie Game: The Movie"

I do not play video games. Sure, I logged a bit of time with Galaga in my youth (yes, child of the ‘80s, how ya doin’), and went a round or two with Duck Hunt on the first Nintendo system, but that’s pretty much the extent of my “gaming” background; from the teenage years on, I’ve found them a waste of time and energy, and have been consistently befuddled by their appeal to my peers.

This is not information that I’m sharing to ignite some sort of Ebert-style flame war, but as a roundabout way of complimenting Indie Game: The Movie, an outstanding new documentary by Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky—because it made me care very much about a topic that filled me with indifference. There is plenty here (it could be reasonably assumed) that will interest those who play and make games, and the logistics of the industry will fascinate fans and neophytes alike. But the filmmakers wisely understand that, told right, this is a story that is about more than just pixels and controllers; it’s about creativity and accomplishment.

In Theaters: "Virginia"

Dustin Lance Black’s Virginia made its festival debut over a year and a half ago, at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival, and it’s not surprising that it’s taken this long to reach theaters; one can hardly imagine the suits and marketeers that populate most distribution companies managing to make heads nor tails of it. To be sure, it’s a hard picture to pin down—it has the raw materials for a big, dumb farce (and it’s mostly being promoted that way), but it stakes out a claim in altogether more interesting territory. It is shambling, and uncertain, and more than a little messy. But this is not a film that can be regarded passively; it involves you, piques your curiosity, engages your interest. I was never quite sure where the hell it was going, and that’s something that doesn’t happen nearly often enough anymore.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On DVD: "Norman Mailer: The American"

There is a great documentary to be made on the life of Norman Mailer: legendary writer, famed raconteur, failed politician, occasional filmmaker, notorious womanizer, renowned drinker. That great documentary has yet to be made; Joseph Mantegna's Norman Mailer: The American, put politely, is not it. Shabbily assembled and glancingly shallow, this brief 2010 portrait offers some bracing footage and tantalizing ideas, but either the subject is too immense, or the filmmaker was simply unable to lick him.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On DVD: "Albert Nobbs"

"Such a kind little man," says the hotel guest, of Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close), the headwaiter. Prim and proper, Albert is quiet, introverted, hard-working. He's also a woman, masquerading as this man for decades, stashing away every pence he's earned. He dreams of owning a shop--a tobacconist's, perhaps, with a parlor in the back for tea and a girl working the counter. Ah yes, a girl. A wife. That's where it gets complicated.

On DVD: "Rampart"

The first hour or so of Owen Moverman's Rampart is so strangely compelling, so utterly uncompromising and enigmatic, that you figure out right away that there's no way they can pull it of all the way through, and you're right. Its first half gets our attention; its second tries our patience. This is not to imply that the picture isn't worth seeing--merely that you should know what you're getting into.

Monday, May 14, 2012

On DVD: "The Grey"

There's a stillness at the center of Liam Neeson which goes a long way to explain his unexpected yet delightful cinematic second act as an action hero. He's not the first actor to mine the "reluctant man of action" groove, but he's one of the few that actually makes you believe him; he projects a sense of a life lived before the camera rolled, of experiences and knowledge accumulated that he'd rather not call upon, but fine, if he must, he must. He's present on the screen--"in the moment," as they say in all of those beginning acting classes, and he's not waiting for the opportunity to knock someone out or stage a daring escape. He does it if he has to, and he gets on with it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Night Links

From The Atlantic:

Set to Fail: A History of Movies That Debuted Against Blockbusters
The problem is, a movie like The Avengers defies counter-programming: It's a movie that cuts across demos and marketing quadrants. Everybody wants to see that movie. What you often end up with instead are kamikaze movies—films whose release opposite a major, hype-driven blockbuster indicates a competing studio is just giving up and burning off a movie that they have to release sometime (maybe even for contractual reasons), so this is as good a time as any. There's a long, strange history to be found in tracking the movies that opened against the sure bets. Take a look at a few prime examples below.

From Flavorwire:

Beautiful Photographs of Decaying and Repurposed Movie Palaces

From the 1920s through the 1950s, thousands of ornate movie palaces were built across America, seating hundreds of patrons in lavish settings for films and live shows. But the introduction of television, the rise of the multiplex, and the dissolution of city centers caused the movie palace to go the way of the dinosaur. In the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, many were destroyed (usually for parking lots). Some were converted, into multiplexes, performing arts centers, or adult theaters. Others were repurposed into different (and somewhat incongruent) businesses entirely; others were simply left to fall apart. In 2005, photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre (whose photographs of Detroit in ruins captivated us last year) began documenting theaters that had either fallen into decay or been transformed entirely. The results of the ongoing project can be viewed on their website; we’ve collected the most haunting and fascinating of those pictures after the jump.

Our All-Time Favorite Actor/Director Movie Teams
Dark Shadows opens this week, whether we like it or not, but it does give us cause to pause for numerical consideration. No, we’re not talking about the amount of time since Tim Burton’s last film that was based on an original idea — that would be seven years, since Corpse Bride. Before that, you have to go clear back to 1990′s Edward Scissorhands, which was also (coincidentally enough) his first time working with Dark Shadows star Johnny Depp. Dark Shadows marks their eighth collaboration, which got us thinking about some of our favorite (and most productive, with a minimum of four pairings) actor/director teams. After the jump, we’ve compiled a dozen of the best from movie history; add your own in the comments, won’t you?

Video Essay: “The Semi-Obligatory Lyrical Interlude (A Case Study)”
In his Bigger Little Movie Glossary, Roger Ebert defines the “Semi-Obligatory Lyrical Interlude” (or “Semi-OLI,” for short) thus: “Scene in which soft focus and slow motion are used while a would-be hit song is performed on the soundtrack and the lovers run through a pastoral setting.” He notes that the Semi-OLI first came into prominence in the late 1960s, and though it eventually fell out of favor, it soon mutated into the “Semi-Obligatory Music Video” from the 1980s forward; the Semi-OLI or Semi-OMV remained prominent in romantic movies, though usually to show a particularly successful first date, or to compress the process of a couple falling deeply in love. The Semi-OLI became such a cliché that it seemed had finally disappeared, which is why your correspondent was horrified to see at least three examples of it at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival — and these were in (otherwise good) independent films, mind you, not insipid Katherine Heigl rom-coms or something. Is the Semi-Obligatory Lyrical Interlude making a comeback? We hope not. For this week’s video essay, we’ve smashed together over a dozen egregious examples of this device, along with a couple of parodies for the sake of levity. Check out our latest video essay after the jump.

Writer/Director Bobcat Goldthwait on ‘God Bless America,’ the Year’s Ballsiest Movie
You remember Bobcat Goldthwait. He became a comedy star in the 1980s thanks to what amounted to a gimmick: the persona of a sweaty, wired, Tab-swilling punk dude who screeched like a banshee. That character got him plenty of TV and movie work (he still seems, unfortunately enough, best known for his supporting roles in three Police Academy movies), but as with his contemporary Sam Kinison — with whom he was often compared — there was more to his comedy than volume. Behind the bellowing mad man was a wry and perceptive social commentator, which is why his new film, the bold and brilliant pitch-black comedy God Bless America, is, as he notes, “closest to the style of how I did stand-up.” It’s a scathing satire and plea for harmony, dressed up as a hyper-violent revenge thriller.

Hypotheticals: Kevin Smith and/or Tim Burton’s ‘Superman Lives’
Here at Flavorwire, we love to engage in what Marcellus Wallace called “contemplating the ifs” — imagining a pop culture landscape filled with movies that never happened, adaptations that never came to pass, and performances that were not to be. In “Hypotheticals,” we hone in on a single project that never was (a film, a television show, an album, a book, anything really) and explain why it went away, and what we might’ve missed. Today: the ill-fated Kevin Smith/Tim Burton attempt to reboot the Superman cinematic franchise.

Flavorpill’s Guide to Movies You Need to Stream This Week
Welcome to Flavorpill’s streaming movie guide, in which we help you sift through the scores of movies streaming on Netflix, Hulu, and other services to find the best of the recently available, freshly relevant, or soon to expire. This week, we’ve got Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Walter Matthau, Orson Welles, Dustin Hoffman, a Gus Van Sant classic, a serious turn by Will Ferrell, documentaries on sheepherding and gay politicians, and some much-needed levity from the MST3K crew. Check them all out after the jump, and follow the title links to watch them right now.

This Week in Trailers: ‘This is 40,’ ‘Spider-Man,’ ‘Dark Knight,’ and More!
Every Friday here at Flavorwire, we like to gather up the week’s new movie trailers, give them a look-see, and rank them from worst to best — while taking a guess or two about what they might tell us (or hide from us) about the movies they’re promoting. This week we’ve got the latest from Judd Apatow, the big buzz object at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and the final trailers for Nolan’s new Batman film and Marc Webb’s Spidey reboot. Check ‘em all out after the jump, and share your thoughts in the comments.