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Monday, Jun 16, 2014
This modest B picture from MGM offers unique pleasures and allows us to explore the mystery of writer-director Norman Foster.

Now available on demand from Warner Archive, this modest B picture from MGM offers unique pleasures and allows us to explore the mystery of writer-director Norman Foster.


This is the almost-nothing-happens, not-quite-romance between a tall, gangling, aw-shucks, naive young cowpoke (Carleton Carpenter) and a tight-sweatered blonde (Jan Sterling) who always seems about two minutes away from taking his cash and leaving him flat. The story is so light and anecdotal, it’s a wonder it stretches to 70 minutes, but those 70 engage the viewer enough to see it through as our cowboy chalks up a learning experience.


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Friday, Jun 13, 2014
The color of going too far

RaroVideo’s DVD of Alberto Cavallone’s difficult-to-describe Blue Movie is an important release that I hope presages more from this obscure cult figure. I say this with due consideration. Many people, attracted by the title’s promise of sleaze (on which the film delivers both less and more than most would wish), will find the movie a confusing, unwatchable eyesore, which it is. This is partly for reasons beyond the late Cavallone’s control, and partly due to his deliberate vision.


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Friday, Jun 13, 2014
The play's the thing

The Reckoning begins with lovely, stylized, cold images of nature while Nicholas (Paul Bettany) shaves his head in a forest, drinks from a stream, and flashes back to his downfall from priesthood for sins of the flesh. After a terrifying encounter, he learns (again) that appearances are deceiving and takes up with a troupe of traveling players who perform “Mysteries” (Biblical plays) across the rural England of 1380.


They arrive at one village, dominated by the castle of the local lord (Vincent Cassel), just in time to witness a mute woman’s conviction for strangling a boy. She’s sentenced to hang. The troupe’s leader (Willem Dafoe) wants to put on a new kind of play, one that dramatizes the local event. After arguing the morality of this, their investigation and production stirs up new evidence and lots of trouble, as we realize we’re in yet another plot about a serial killer of children. This is apparently what we need to take our entertainment seriously nowadays.


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Friday, Jun 13, 2014
22 Jump Street makes its superfluousness clear. We laugh because we recognize ourselves in the viewership mocked by this movie.

Welcome to the A-list, Channing Tatum. If you weren’t already there (and we can debate this concept for as long as you like), you will certainly be among the biggies come the release of 22 Jump Street. In the nine years since you’ve been in the movie (yes, you’re a relative short-timer in the industry) you’ve gone from “that buff dancing dude” in films like Step Up and its sequel, to wannabe action hero in such efforts as G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, The Eagle, and White House Down.


Oddly enough, it won’t be your hoofing and huffing that get you in good with the studio suits. No, it will be your ability to mock your own machismo, be it as part of the excessively profitable Magic Mike movies (there’s a sequel to the male stripper epic in the works) or the equally enjoyable Jump Street films.


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Thursday, Jun 12, 2014
Decadence sets in.

I have a weakness for heist or caper films, a chic and sleek subgenre of action (or comedy, or both) that flourished in the Sixties, yielding much silliness. Today’s example, The Biggest Bundle of Them All, manages to be entertaining while remaining utterly trivial and disposable. Even though it coincides with The Thomas Crown Affair and pre-dates The Italian Job, classics of the genre, it already feels like late-model decadence is setting in.


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