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Friday, May 6, 2011
If you’ve seen Charles Kaufman’s Mother’s Day, you know that loving mothers come in many forms. Now, Darren Lynn Bousman comes with a remake of the 1980 cult classic. A lot less scary, but still, not all moms will appreciate a ticket to the movie theater.

“You have made your mother very proud”—for those familiar with Charles Kaufman’s 1980 film Mother’s Day, that seemingly endearing sentence will never have the same innocent and touching quality anymore. It was the punch line that succeeded graphic scenes of rape and violence committed by Mother’s gruesome twosome, framed in what The New York Times called an “absurdist comedy” while the director himself referred to it as a satire.  Kaufman’s version will be released on Blu Ray soon, but that’s not the only thing that gives the film a current twist.


Darren Lynn Bousman (of Saw 2-5 infamy) directed a same-titled remake of the film, or better, a reinterpretation. While there’s no official U.S. wide release date yet, Bousman will attend the Midwestern premiere of the film in Chicago, on Saturday, 7 May at 11.59PM at the Music Box Theater, and the film has been released in countries such as the Netherlands just in time for the commercial holiday. But in this case, most mothers will be happier receiving the standard bouquet of flowers than a trip to the movie theater. For all of you brave people, an intro to both films.


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Wednesday, Apr 13, 2011
The '70s is the decade in which Lumet did his best work, and that work does the near-impossible: it totally reflects its time and provides indelible commentary on -- and for -- that era; while managing to anticipate our world, almost 40 years later. This is beyond prescient and bordering on prophetic.

It’s difficult, and probably pointless, to try and isolate which film was Sidney Lumet’s best or most enduring. The fact that he made three of the best movies of the ‘70s (three out-and-out masterpieces in one decade) is more than enough.


Although he was active for six decades, for me—and presumably many others—it was the ‘70s when he did his best work, and that work does the near-impossible: it totally reflects its time and provides indelible commentary on—and for—that era; while managing to anticipate our world, almost 40 years later. This is beyond prescient and bordering on prophetic. Of course, it has as much to do with the screenplays as his direction, but it’s to Lumet’s credit, and indicative of the dilemmas that drove him, that he gravitated toward this material.


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Monday, Mar 21, 2011
This film is a case study in style over substance. This is not always a bad thing. Godard, a master filmmaker, made a career out of this concept. However, when the style offered is derivative, the idiom looms forebodingly.

In this series, I intend to revisit certain acclaimed films with inflated reputations. The films I chose will not necessarily be without merit (I feel Chungking Express is a fine film for example), merely ones which are not as masterful as the critical community would claim. I do not intend to review these films, but rather refute the critical consensus of select “untouchable” works of cinema. First up Chungking Express:


Overwhelming critical praise for a work of art gets my attention; and why shouldn’t it? Critics consume art professionally. The impeccable taste of the most esteemed critics lends reliability. This is why Chungking Express’s high placement (#8) on the “UK Critics Top 10 Films of the Past 25 Years List”, published by Sight and Sound (and the word “masterpiece” floated in various reviews) made it a personal must-see. However, reading such hyperbolic raves beforehand has a tendency to saddle a film experience with impossible expectations. Chungking Express was no exception.


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Thursday, Feb 3, 2011
The critical reception of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes owes more to Basil Rathbone than Robert Downey Jr.

I have never quite understood the purists who insist on Holmesian externals as the be-all and end-all, that Victorian London be picturesque, cozy and uncomplicated largely because Holmes stands like a bulwark against evil: all-knowing, all-wise, calm and collected.


Well, no. The canonical Holmes is one of the most spectacularly unstable characters in all literature, a bundle of manic energies who depends on cocaine to keep up with them—that is, when he’s not digging through the dark side of human nature, propelled by the most grotesque crimes he can ferret out. He’s arrogant, impatient, sardonic, sloppy, rude to his closest friends and the despair of his poor landlady.


In short, how exactly do you complain when he’s being played by Robert Downey Jr.? Even the normally hyper-perceptive Roger Ebert falls into this trap—objecting because he sees Holmes as always ‘immaculate’. Uh-huh. I think Ebert has seen one too many Basil Rathbone movies.


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Thursday, Jan 13, 2011
Along with names like Renoir, Welles, Hitchcock, and Kurosawa, Leone deserves a much stronger cinematic status - even with a limited creative canon.

He was born into the belly of Italian show business: his father a famed director (Roberto Roberti), his mother a certified star (Bice Waleran). By the time he was a teenager, he was very familiar with film, and took several jobs on Hollywood and homeland period productions. While helping out on the peplum epic The Last Days of Pompeii, he was forced to fill in for Mario Bonnard when the filmmaker grew ill. Suddenly, he was behind the lens, and it would be a place he’d remain for the rest of his career. Oddly enough, he only made nine credited films from 1959 to 1984, but for fans of the spaghetti Western—a showy subgenre that brought grit and gravitas to the sagging cinematic staple—four of his films would remain major motion picture milestones.


Indeed, A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and Once Upon a Time in the West would both revolutionize and reign in the format’s filmic impact. They become the beginning and the end of the sagebrush switch-up. But there was more to Sergio Leone than squinting antiheroes and one-horse towns draped in quick-draw bloodshed. He was first and foremost a man of extraordinary vision, a auteur’s panache that has carried over for the decades since his death. Now, with the arrival of Once Upon a Time in America on Blu-ray, it’s crucial to understand how a limited oeuvre has both driven Leone’s legacy as well as marginalized his meaning. He was more than just a hero of the post-modern horse opera, though few can see the truth behind all the trigger fingers.


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