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Friday, Sep 9, 2011
With the stink of Apollo 18 still fresh, here are 10 examples of the first person POV subgenre that actually work.

With a weak opening of barely $9 million, Apollo 18 stunk up the September box office this past Labor Day Weekend. Few had much faith in a film that was jostled around the release schedule in such a random manner, and the lack of a significant press screening more or less sealed the deal. But there’s another factor involved in the flop that few have mentioned - the significant struggle required to make a good first person, POV, found footage film. The list of pretenders to the throne - The Poughkeepsie Tapes, The Zombie Diaries, The Last Horror Movie - are many, and for every classic take on the material, there are dozens of desperate wannabes who can’t seem to create compelling characters (Paranormal Activity) or a suspenseful storyline (The Last Exorcism).


In a nutshell, here’s the inherent problem with the category - the audience has to believe they are seeing something real. They have to believe that there’s a reason for a constantly filming camera (even in light of impending danger). They have to believe in the images captured. And they have to believe that the threat will continue to grow worse. The viewer should want to avert their eyes, not permanently close them in bored out of their brain tedium. It’s one of the most delicate and deceptive balancing acts in all of cinema. Perhaps this is why successful examples are so rare. In the case of the ten titles listed here, more than a few have flaws. In fact, only a couple are close to perfect. What they all have in common is the ability to deliver on their promise - and in the first person, POV, found footage arena, that’s a major accomplishment.


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Friday, Sep 2, 2011
Can we really go four weeks in a row without a bad movie in September? Like I say every season with the Cubs, this might be the year.

My parents go to the movies almost every week, God bless ‘em. Whether there’s a new Harrison Ford movie out or the best offering is a shudder Paul Walker movie, my folks will be sitting in the theater at least 20 minutes early, popcorn in hand, waiting for it to start—and yes, they were disappointed in Cowboys and Aliens, too. They, like most film fanatics, hate the down season. January through April are the months most chock full of schlock, and September usually comes in a close second because it’s too late for summer blockbusters and too early for Oscar contenders.


Last year, the closest we got to a Best Picture nominee was The Town, an admittedly deserving contender. In 2009, however, the best of month #9 was The Informant. 2008 gave us Burn After Reading. It was 2007 that came the closest to week-to-week quality with Eastern Promises, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and The Darjeeling Limited, but the last two were given limited releases keeping most Americans from seeing them until October or later.


This year actually has a shot at September perfection. That’s not to claim every film will be a 10 out of 10 or even get an Oscar nomination. After all, a pitcher doesn’t have to strike out every batter for a perfect game. Looking at the lineup, though, there’s at least one wide release each week deserving of your dollars. Here’s hoping Mr. and Mrs. Travers agree come October.


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Tuesday, Aug 30, 2011
Perhaps the greatest American filmmakers of the last 25 years, here are the Coens' 10 best movies. Fifteen movies since their early '80s start, and very few, if any are true artistic flops.

What does it say about a pair of filmmakers when the five titles you choose to leave off a considered career overview contain at least one masterpiece (their adaptation of True Grit) and two terrific examples of their aesthetic reach (The Man Who Wasn’t There and Burn After Reading). Indeed, when discussing the Coen Brothers, only a couple of their movies warrant instant dismissal, and even then, both Intolerable Cruelty and their remake of The Ladykillers have their positives and their patrons. Of course, some may argue that any or all of these leftovers actually belong in the heralded halls of this Top 10, and that any number of the selections made herein are half-baked and ill-advised. To each his or her own.


Truth is, it’s almost impossible to fathom the track record of these remarkable filmmakers. Fifteen movies since their early ‘80s start, and very few, if any are true artistic flops. In fact, many would argue that they’ve made more masterworks than misfires, and that even their ‘failures’ are far better than anything the standard studio system creates. They aren’t just artists. They’re the very definition of an auteur. So in celebration of their catalog finally coming to Blu-ray (Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, and Miller’s Crossing are new to the format this week), we rank the brothers incredibly output. Placement be damned… when it comes to the Coens, almost everything is a classic, beginning with this unusual entry…


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Wednesday, Aug 24, 2011
Tired of the titles Hollywood thinks you want remade? Here are ten other interesting ideas that should be revised.

Are audiences growing sick of remakes? If you listen to the pundits spinning the sour box office numbers for 2011 adaptations of Fright Night and Conan the Barbarian after their disastrous 19 August weekend ticket sales, the answer might be “Yes!” After all, a recent report has indicated that nearly 90 of such revamps are in the planning, and if anything can stop the stampede of reduxes to your local Cineplex, it’s the failure to find a consistent ticket buying crowd. Of course, if good version of old films were made, the number and need wouldn’t matter. One of the greatest truisms in Tinseltown is that money talks and all other BS business concerns walk. Had this latest take on the vampire and the sword and sandal spectacle become Summer season popcorn prizes, no one would be arguing.


Perhaps it’s what was being redone, not the how or the why. As a matter of fact, there are dozens of titles sitting out there in underachievement land just waiting to be rediscovered and reconfigured. Horror may seem to be the region where everyone draws from the most, but there are other categories and genres just waiting for their half-baked step-children to be embraced. While choices and chances are always concerned, it seems clear that the 10 films listed here are ripest for reconsideration. They offer the elements necessary for successful contemporizing, including great ideas, ripe potential, and a result that reinforces the original while making a statement all their own. This is especially true of the first title in the collection, a potential terror epic that got sidetracked by facets outside its novice creator’s control…


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Wednesday, Aug 17, 2011
With The Big Lebowski hitting Blu-ray this week, it's time to champion the Top 10 Titans of toking and taking it easy.

What, exactly, is a slacker? Your dad would probably be a good source for such a definition. How about your teachers, or your college professors? Maybe your boss or your wife could come up with a decent ID. Then there’re your friends, associates, buddies and other partners in passivity. By their very nature, slackers are sensitive to being mislabeled. Just because you work 70 hours a week and can’t find time to fire up a fat one doesn’t mean the purposefully prone should be citied for their seemingly endless ability to do so. In fact, when measured against the rallying rat race of this or any other future shock society, the slacker is our cup of good cheer. He or she is wish fulfillment in a Taco Bell shaped body.


Naturally, the movies have made them masters of their own particular domain as well. Everyone from Cheech and Chong to Harold and Kumar have been championed for their choice of recreational pharmaceutical (and reaction to same). Between old school interpretations (beatnik joke butt Maynard G. Krebs) and au current examples (James Franco in… well… everything), we get the media defined details. Luckily, the films featuring these fun loving freeloaders have worked their way, like cannabis smoke, deep into the public consciousness (like The Big Lebowski, now out on Blu-ray in a classy Collector’s Edition). In fact, the ten examples here could contain every possible permutation of the slacker conceit ever created, beginning with a pen and ink version that still remains a viable illustration of humorous human inertness…


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