Latest Blog Posts

by Bill Gibron

3 Jul 2012

Frankly, film has missed Oliver Stone. The original button pushing infant terrible, the caustic controversy causer who loved to stir things up as well as entertain and engage, has been creatively MIA for far too long. It’s been only two years since his last film (the vastly mediocreWall Street sequel) and yet it seems like he’s been out of the cinematic limelight for twice as long, if not longer. Granted, he may have misfired through most of the Aughts, choices like Alexander and World Trade Center arguing for a man missing his main muse, but when you consider how brightly his contentious star burned throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, a little post-millennial malaise can be expected. In fact, to believe that Stone will ever be as creatively powerful as 1986 through 1996 is an aesthetic fool’s paradise.

With the opening of his latest work as co-writer/director, Savages, it’s time to look back at a motion picture catalog so dense and yet so diverse. Stone seems to have favorite subject matters—war and remembrance, crime and (the lack of legitimate) punishment, the conspiracy behind the veil of social reality—and when he stays within those limits, he’s luminous. It’s only when he strays from his considered comfort zone—pro football, ancient history, talk radio—that he falters, sometimes fatally. With this in mind, we have decided to pick through the 28 films he’s been responsible for either at the typewriter, behind the lens, or both, and pick our favorite ten. For the most part, the usual suspects are present, but as with the man who we’re celebrating here, surprises are par for the course, beginning with:

by Bill Gibron

26 Jun 2012

It may seem like an oxymoron, but Tyler Perry has made some good movies. Not GREAT movies, mind you, but perfectly acceptable examples of near mainstream entertainment that have the added benefit of bringing disenfranchised and forgotten viewers of color back to the cinema to celebrate their own. While still growing, he’s gained significant commercial status. Still, he’s a divisive character, a creator who loves to languish in the old school style known as melodrama while invoking an even more marginal device, the drag act, to generate laughs. Indeed, when decked out in full Madea Simmons garb, giving the young one’s what for while quoting soul classics from a bygone era, he’s the ultimate entertainment gimmick. Even if you find his films flawed beyond repair, the iconic gun-toting, pot smoking granny with a pantry of personal advice to ladle out like pans full of hot grits is a near guarantee of… good. 

So why don’t more movie lovers “get” Perry? Well, it could be a lack of previous experience. He got his start on the stage, offering inspirational plays and musical variety shows to churches throughout the South. He then stretched to the more urban areas for the country. By the time his first film, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, hit theaters, he was an established part of the poorly named “Chitlin’ Circuit”. Since then, he’s tried to expand his scope to include other aspects of the American experience while always keeping his cause squarely situated in faith and the minorities who rely on it for hope/help. With yet another entry in his growing oeuvre hitting theaters this week (Madea’s Witness Protection Program, 29 June), it’s time to look back at what’s he has accomplished and highlight the decent. Perhaps, with a little open-mindedness, this list will inspire you to check out his sunny, often soul-uplifting efforts, beginning with:

by Bill Gibron

19 Jun 2012

Don’t let the concept fool you: Hollywood has made a mint mining popular culture for music to squeeze into their productions. Even back in the days when actors frequently broke into song for no good reason, the latest selections on the hit parade were wedged in for some necessary commercial cross promotion. Many of the most memorable tunes from the past found their purchase in the cinema of the time, and up until the ‘50s, there was little change. Then directors hit upon a more intriguing idea. Instead of just using same as a marketing tool, why not give the material meaning? As a result, we’ve seen a steady increase in the use of popular songs and genres—rock, country, soul—as a viable motion picture backdrop. Some filmmakers have become so good at the concurrence of sight and sound that their reputation rests on it.

As a result, this is our list of the 10 Best Uses of Popular Music in Post Modern Cinema (yes, we are skipping several decades previous - there’s just no time or space). First off, however, some ground rules. We have PURPOSEFULLY tried to avoid the obvious choices. You won’t see “Layla” from Goodfellas, “In Dreams” from Blue Velvet, or “Sister Christian” from Boogie Nights (we have another, better selection for that film). In fact, many of the so called “most memorable” moments from the use of music in movies are AWOL here. Why? Well, it’s far more fun to discuss new traditions that to trod down the paths previously proposed. Even better, songs and sounds are personal things. One individuals love of George Thorogood can lead to the widespread use (and abuse) of his “Bad to the Bone”.

by Ben Travers

12 Jun 2012

Is it an eagerly anticipated glam-fest of popular celebrities singing popular rock and roll anthems, or is Rock of Ages a desperate, lazy attempt to capitalize on a lack of musicals in the summer season by throwing money at good actors to perform a less than stellar story? I don’t know. No one does yet. But these are the factors, for and against, that will make or break the film in quality and at the box office.

by Bill Gibron

5 Jun 2012

For many, the name Ridley Scott meant nothing until the final frames of a film called Alien. Then, after witnessing what many thought was the birth of a new voice in genre filmmaking, few would forget him. Yet there was more to the man that leading us around a world where no one could hear us scream. He was a merchant marine. He graduated from art school and worked for the BBC. In the late ‘60s, he started a production company with his brother Tony and began making a name for himself in commercials. By the time he tackled his first full length feature film, he was 40 years old. Since then, he’s made some of the best and most visually accomplished films of the post-modern era. He’s also been in charge of some less than thrilling excesses (1492: Conquest of Paradise anyone?).

Now, after a decade which saw his greatest success (Gladiator) matched by some of his worst received efforts ever (A Good Year, Body of Lies), Scott seems back on top. His revisit of the Alien franchise, the powerful Prometheus, promises to bring the 73-year-old back to the beloved geeks and fanboys who turned him into a titan in the first place. But there is much more to Scott’s creative canon than visits to planets far off and interaction with creatures mechanical and monstrous. With 20 films to his credit, we’ve decided to rank Ridley’s 10 best. You may not agree with the final countdown, but in a true rollercoaster career, this represents his most accomplished and artistic. Few filmmakers have Scott’s solid cinematic eye. Few also have a compendium of aesthetics as strong as this one, beginning with:

//Mixed media

The Eye of Lenzi: "Gang War in Milan" and "Spasmo"

// Short Ends and Leader

"Two wide and handsome Italian thrillers of the 1970s.

READ the article