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Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012
While his brother got the all the buzz, Tony Scott made some of the most interesting films of the '80s and '90s. Here's our listing of his telling Top Ten.

With his suicide on 19 August of 2012, Hollywood and the world of film lost one of its most influential and frustrating filmmakers. Tony Scott, brother to fellow artist Ridley Scott, got his start as his older sibling did - in the world of commercials. After art school, he ended up working for for the family business. For years, he helped guide the RSA, the brothers’ company, creating memorable ads and watching the bottom line while Ridley went on to titanic Tinseltown success. Before long, Tony had joined the fray, parlaying decent notices for The Hunger (and a jet-themed commercial for SAAB) into a chance to helm Top Gun. While he wasn’t convinced of the project’s viability, he took the reins anyway. The rest is early ‘80s legend. Gun became a megahit, and suddenly Tony was the Scott in the brightest beams of the spotlight.

It would become a complicated career. With any spec script at his disposal, Scott made the odd decision to direct Beverly Hills Cop II (for friends and Gun guys Simpson and Bruckheimer). He then tackled another Cruise concern (Days of Thunder) before bombing with the Kevin Costner led romance, Revenge. Thanks to a young industry upstart, however, Scott would regain his footing and become a frequent A-lister. Indeed, Quentin Tarantino’s True Romance would be, what many consider, the quintessential example of the man’s work. Before his death, he had nearly 17 features under his belt. As a result, we’ve decided to break down his oeuvre into a telling 10 best. While his efforts weren’t always great, there were consistently interesting. Too bad he choose leave us before he could fully expand his cinematic horizons.

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Tuesday, Aug 21, 2012
From a lack of food to too many people, sci-fi loves to discuss dystopias. Here are 10 terrifying examples of such frightening future shocks.

Science fiction and fantasy has always thrived on the “what if”. From the earliest days of the genre, writers and filmmakers found inventive ways to view the future. As a result, there have been thoughtful and positive portrayals of technology helping mankind as well as dark, distressing tales of science/species run amok. Thanks to Hollywood and its way with vision, some of the first movies ever traded on these tenets. Georges Méliès gave us out first trip to the moon while Fritz Lang found a metropolis that functioned as a metaphor for man’s place within the social machine. There’s have been planets overrun by robots and societies stuck in human sacrifice, worlds where aliens and human share an uneasy coexistence and governments who’ve reduced war to an athletic/video game competition. In each case, a cautionary approach is taken with the material. The moral warns us of allowing our ambitions to go unchecked and unfocused.

The result has been some of the best, most thought provoking entertainments of all time. In recognition of our number eight choice on the list (now out on Blu-ray and DVD), we’ve decided to run through our own personal top ten—examples of dystopias that defy easy description and yet get their pragmatic/philosophical points across with ease. There’s a caveat, however, an exterior concern if you will. Since many of these films rely on the secrets within their society to forward their message, we are going to be spoiling quite a few. There’s a big fat SPOILER ALERT is in place, just as a precaution. If you don’t want to know what ‘soylent green’ really is, or if the reason behind the dark city’s noir nightmare, check out the movie before moving on. Otherwise, enjoy these glimpses of what could be and why it will happen. They may not be predicting the actual path we will take as hiding present truths in glossy, high tech possibilities. In either case, it’s never a truly pretty picture:

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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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