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Wednesday, Aug 6, 2014
What makes James Gunn's scruffier and un-spandex'd band of reluctant heroes so appealing is how they approximate the good-hearted rogues on the raggedy charm of space westerns like Whedon’s own "Firefly".

There’s a lot to appreciate—and maybe even love—about Guardians of the Galaxy. The oozing and eager-to-please sprawl of Gen-X references, from Mom’s ‘70s pop music mixtape to hero Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, surfer-dude sly) romancing the green-skinned assassin babe Gamora (Zoe Saldana) by referencing the “legend” of Footloose. Banter threaded slyly through the action instead of airdropped in by executive committee looking for humor beats. A talking raccoon skilled in jail-breaks and bomb-making. David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream”. A genocidal villain thwarted by a dance-off. The two-hour running time, practically unheard-of brevity for modern blockbusters. Howard the Duck.


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Tuesday, Aug 5, 2014
With his passing at age 92, this make-up wizard left behind a legacy that literally reinvented movie F/X while influencing the people who created them.

He went to Yale, where he was planning on being a dentist. However, once he read a book on make-up techniques, he began experimenting on members of the drama club. After World War II, he sent out pictures of his self-taught applications and looks, but there were no takers in the close-knit world of Hollywood.


His father suggested he try the fledgling medium of television, and before long, a young 20 something Dick Smith was working at WNBC in New York. For a 1959 production of The Moon and the Sixpence, he had to turn Laurence Olivier into a leper. After taking one look at what Smith had done, the legendary thespian said that he was more than satisfied as the grotesque latex appliances would do “the acting for him”. It was something Smith never forgot over the course of his long, legendary life (he died on 30 July, 2014).


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Monday, Aug 4, 2014
Chase a Crooked Shadow trades upon sexism, but it also makes the audience question its own uncertainty about the motives and sanity of the female characters.

Kimberley Prescott (Anne Baxter), who lost both her brother and her wealthy father, is wasting away her life in a fabulous villa near Barcelona, going to parties and sighing, not unlike Jean Seberg in the same year’s Bonjour Tristesse. But wait—a mysterious man (Richard Todd) and a harsh woman (Faith Brook) are studying slides of her villa’s exits and entrances, so something’s afoot. Suddenly the man shows up at the villa and claims to be Kimberley’s dead brother, Ward Prescott, and that a stranger really died in the car that went over a cliff. And thus, the plot for Chase a Crooked Shadow is set in motion.


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Friday, Aug 1, 2014
Unless you count a last act catfight between two babes that are basically disintegrating into pools of genetic stew right before our very eyes, there's not much to recommend Cabin Fever: Patient Zero.

There’s a good reason why the prequel is considered one of the worst movie moves, no matter the genre or franchise. Indeed, the original film is supposed to set things up, provide the necessary narrative foundation and origin impetus for us to become invested in any continuing saga. Going back to rewrite that is not only disingenuous, but antithetical to what you accomplished the first time around. However, in some very rare cases, going back to before the beginning is a necessity, especially when no one really successfully explained what was going on in the first place.


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Thursday, Jul 31, 2014
King and Country finds Joseph Losey examining the human soul with his signature dispassionate curiosity.

Joseph Losey never saw a cornice, plinth, or pediment he didn’t like. This most architectural of directors opens King and Country with a slow, caressing shot that runs over two minutes long, moving around the details of a war memorial from arch to statuary to frieze. We hear only traffic, and then we cut to newsreel footage of an explosion with a boom. Surely, only Losey would open a movie this way.


Then we get to the credits, scored by Larry Adler’s lonely harmonica as the close-up camera roves over mud, boots, and duckboards of the trenches of WWI. The explosion repeats again, followed photos from the Imperial War Museum, then capped off by a transition of one startling skull-headed soldier’s corpse to the head of Tom Courtenay, lying down (already dead without knowing it) and supposedly playing that harmonica we’ve been hearing. We also hear a few lines from A.E. Housman. In this way, the film announces itself as serious art.


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