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Tuesday, Aug 14, 2012
Forget Bourne. Barney Ross should be the most influential action hero of the aughts.

Let me first say I’m not joking. I don’t care that most people will scoff at the headline, roll their eyes at the first line, and have stopped reading before they reached this very sentence. The Expendables reestablished the action genre we ALL can love – the fun one. The one with movie stars, and not giant monsters or robots. The one with a devil-may-care attitude and enough ammunition to go to hell and back.


Some of you know the truth. Some of you understand the incredible appeal of Sylvester Stallone’s 2010 butt-kicking—check that—ASS-kicking, explosive-setting, knife-throwing masterpiece of manhood. Some of you I saw at the midnight show two years ago and some I’ll see at the same time in a few days.


If you don’t count yourself in this group, shame on you. Maybe these 10 reasons—double the standard five—can put you in the right mind.


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Tuesday, Aug 7, 2012
If we had participated in this year's Sight & Sound Best Of listing, here's 10 choices we'd champion.

Truth be told, this is pointless. You can’t usurp the powers that be—even if they are among the members of your own peer group. Last week, the British Film Institute through its seminal magazine, Sight & Sound, unveiled its decennial list of the Best Movies of All Time. A compilation of hundreds of entries from artists, writers, critics, journalists, filmmakers, scholars, and other VIPs, it’s become the benchmark for the always questionable discussion of what, exactly if the greatest achievement in the history of the cinematic artform. The news, of course, was not good for those who’ve championed Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane for the last half century. The winner turned out to be Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and by a margin wider than one might imagine. One masterpiece beating out another.


Perhaps more disturbing was the lack of variety in the choices. While some favorites fell out completely (Singing in the Rain, Battleship Potemkin), the usual celluloid suspects appear present and accounted for… meaning, aside from the order, it’s more or less business as usual. For us, however, there are dozens of movies that deserve to place higher than some of the selections. We love Sunrise, but think there are better examples of the silent film format out there. Man with a Camera might signify the start of the documentary movement, but why not celebrate some true found art? As consolation, we offer up these ten titles, alternates to any of the otherwise unexceptional choices out there and each one, dare we say it, capable of walking toe to toe with said titans. We aren’t suggesting that the battle between Kane and Vertigo is void, just that there is something more special than The Searchers.


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Friday, Aug 3, 2012
When your cast and your set designs are more polished than your script and your directing, you know you're in trouble.

Sometimes, we should just go along for the ride. We need to shut our brains down, forget logical and logistical reasoning, and simply let the eye candy fill us with nutritionally unsound cinematic satisfaction. This is the argument we film fans frequently make, especially in light of a mess of a movie like the recent Total Recall remake. While the original is no bastion of reason and rationality, it contains a central premise (the creation of an atmosphere on Mars by someone who may or may not be a secret agent) that holds up to most scrutiny (not ALL, most). Sure, we could pick it apart in a dozen different ways, but at least we get a handle on why our hero Quaid and his resistance fighters would want to prevent the dictatorial Cohaagen from “giving da peee-ple AAAAAAIRRRRRR! ’ It’s a question of money and control.


In this unnecessary remake, the plot has been reduced to—SPOILER ALERT—a land grab. That’s right, even in the far off, post-apocalyptic future, real estate is a scarce commodity and this entire flimsy film premise is based around Cohaagen’s desire to make room for more people on an otherwise uninhabitable planet. Huh? Birth control not an option? Exactly. Unfortunately, this is not the only element about this lame Len Wiseman effort that’s bothersome. From the unimportance given to Melina as Quaid’s connection to “reality” to that lack of any significant “what if,” this is speculative fiction at its most flawed. As a matter of fact, we have pulled out 10 topics within this mélange of mediocrity that kept pulling us out of the otherwise arresting visual feast. When your cast and your set designs are more polished than your script and your directing, you know you’re in trouble.


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Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012
From outside to Oscar to the Olympics, Danny Boyle is a creative chameleon. Here's our ranking of his best cinematic (plus one) efforts.

Is there a more interesting motion picture chameleon than Danny Boyle. From his early days in theater and his stint at the BBC, few could fathom what he would eventually turn into. Now, after introducing the world to his beloved home country as artistic director of the 2012 London Olympics, the Oscar winning filmmaker is back in the spotlight… and oh, how pretty the glare is. Few could have imagined, way back at the midpoint of the ‘90s, that this maverick would end up one of the best directors currently working. Yes, his films showed that flash of promise, but as quickly as he came up, he was set back by his own choices. It took a good five years for Boyle to get back on track, but when he did… in fact, it’s safe to say that, post problems, he has become one of most dependable and different auteurs. He has vision. He has ambition. And he takes risks. Lots of them.


With the games going gangbusters, it’s time to reflect on Boyle’s career behind the lens. A few caveats have to be mentioned, however. First, we are avoiding anything he did for television. This means we will not be ranking Strumpet, Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise, or the things he did prior to 1991. We also won’t be addressing his sole short (Alien Love Triangle) or his choices as producer. No, we will deal exclusively with the nine films he’s fashioned from 1994 onward, with one wild card thrown in for good measure. When viewed in total, this list becomes an unique perspective on an even more unusual talent. Boyle may be known for taking chances and exceeding expectations, but he’s far from perfect. In fact, the first two films here show that, when pushed and pulled by outside (read: studio) sources, he can come up with crap, beginning with…


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Wednesday, Jul 25, 2012
From 3D to electrified seats, filmmakers have found ways both novel and nutty to get patrons to pay for their films. Here's 10 of the most memorable examples.

First, it was movement. Then, color. Finally sound cemented film as something more than a photographic fluke. Indeed, as the artform grew and took shake, several “gimmicks” were employed to keep the people interested. After the dark days of magic lanterns and other optical entertainments, the zoetrope and its imitation of life made the movies legit. Then came the advent of the whole 24 frames per second dynamic. Throw in a few tints, some poorly recorded voice and music, and a juggernaut was unleashed. Since the first quarter of the 20th century, however, studios and those stuck getting butts into seats have been trying to find a way to up the ante. From artistic invention to flat out flimflams, the gimmick has been a major part of the motion picture experience.


Now, a near 100 years later, we’re still looking. As part of today’s terrain, we have feigned interactivity (hit a button on your seat, vote for where the plot goes next), seats on actuators and gimbles (to mimic movement), and the newfound affection for an increased frame rate. Not unlike the Spook Shows of the ‘50s and ‘60s which saw actors dress up as monsters to torment and tease a vulnerable audience, the modern gimmickry is all smoke and ticket sales mirrors. Still, it’s interesting to reflect on the extremes some will go to in order to make money with their movies. From the oldest bait and switch tricks in the book to some of the most imaginative publicity ever propagated, the cinematic stunt remains part of the process. Here are 10 intriguing examples of its application, from the sensible to the surreal. While almost always about money, there’s a little magic to be found here as well.


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