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Thursday, Nov 16, 2006


Remember Comic Relief? That superstar telethon-like comedy cavalcade typically hosted by Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and Whoopie Goldberg and centering on the charitable desire to help the homeless. Well, these now no longer funny joke tellers are back, and HBO is housing their latest lamentable effort. While the cause this time around is even more important – the still suffering victims of Hurricane Katrina – the concept seems so very, well, Reagan era. And wouldn’t you know it, the event is celebrating its 20th Anniversary. Here’s hoping our aged hosts leave most of the jesting to their far funnier modern contemporaries. Sarah Silverman or Lewis Black can run riffs around these aging icons from humor’s hoary past. Oh yeah, and there’s movies this weekend as well. A couple are really good. The rest are merely defendable. If you can pull yourself away from the random rib-tickling being offered elsewhere, you may actually find something enjoyable to watch on your favorite pay cable channels. And even if you don’t support said washed up comedians, donate anyway. The cause is that important. For the record, the films offered for Saturday, 18 November are:


HBOAssault on Precinct 13

John Carpenter’s take on Night of the Living Dead proved, way back in 1976, that there was more to this potentially great filmmaker than a crazy sci-fi comedy (‘74’s Dark Star). Sadly, this remake once again confirms that Mr. Halloween is one director’s whose oeuvre should not be revisited (2005’s Fog, anyone?). While many enjoyed the standard action film facets of the storyline, helmer Jean-François Richet’s take on the substance is more videogame than viable. What could have been a brash update to the entire b-movie format from decades before ends up another over-stylized homage to the type of tedious thriller that more or less killed the genre in the first place. For those without Cinemax (where this film premiered previously), it’s now your chance to be disappointed.  (Premieres Sunday 19 November, 12:30am EST).


PopMatters Review


CinemaxCharlie and the Chocolate Factory*

Criminally underrated when it hit theaters—mostly because of baby boomers lamenting the very thought of remaking the 1971 Gene Wilder “classic” – and frequently dismissed as an example of both artists’ well known excesses, the immensely talented duo of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp deliver a fractured fairy tale for the glorified geek ages. For SE&L‘s scratch, this is what a Roald Dahl adaptation should be – exciting, mischievous and sitting just slightly over into the dark side. From the film’s incredible look to the emotionally satisfying backstory given to the creepy-cool character of Willy Wonka, this duo created an instant masterpiece. It will soon become the timeless family classic it so richly deserves to be. Take this opportunity to savor the flavor this cinematic confection offers, especially if you missed it the first time around over on HBO. (Saturday 18 November, 10:00pm EST).


PopMatters Review


StarzGlory Road

Ah, the inspirational sports movie. Hollywood just can’t seem to get enough of these one-note exercises in cinematic cheerleading. In the case of this docudrama based on the 1966 Texas Western basketball team (the first all black squad in NCAA history to make it to the championship game) and its white coach Don Haskins, the introduction of race practically triples the sentimental stakes. Many have criticized the film for being historically and sociologically inaccurate, but most audiences have overlooked the flaws to find something of value in this otherwise routine effort. First time filmmaker James Gartner does a good job with this maudlin material, but it’s hard to overcome the inherent issues in the narrative. Anytime ethnicity plays a part in the plotting, idealism tends to mar the overall entertainment elements. (Premieres Saturday 18 November, 9:00pm EST).


PopMatters Review


ShowTOOMe, You and Everyone We Know

*
It was heavily tauted as one of 2005’s best films, but like so many independent treasures tossed around at year’s end, the lack of a continual major studio push has placed this miraculous motion picture directly on the cultural back burner. Miranda July, noted performance artist and first time filmmaker has yet to follow-up this critically acclaimed take on contemporary life, and some have started to question if she’s merely a one hit wonder. Even if she never duplicates this sunny, satiric film’s fresh and inventive vibe, she will still be the creator of one of the new millennium’s most winning efforts. If you’ve never seen it, here’s your non-DVD buying chance. If you have, it’s time to take up artistic arms. A film this good doesn’t deserve to be forgotten so quickly.  (Saturday 18 November, 10:25pm EST)


PopMatters Review


 


ZOMBIES!

For those of you who still don’t know it, Turner Classic Movies has started a new Friday night/Saturday morning feature entitled “The TCM Underground”, a collection of cult and bad b-movies hosted by none other than rad rocker turned atrocity auteur Rob Zombie. From time to time, when SE&L feels Mr. Devil’s Rejects is offering up something nice and sleazy, we will make sure to put you on notice. For 17/18 November, only one horrific hit deserves a mention:


Freaks (1931)
It was the movie that destroyed director Tod Browning’s Hollywood career. It was the inspiration for the Ramones’ classic punk rock catchphrase “Gabba-Gabba-Hey”. But all ancillary issues aside, it is one of early motion picture’s most shocking, and sensational, masterpieces. (2:00am EST)


 


The Cream of the Crop

In honor of IFC’s month-long celebration of Janus Films, SE&L will skip the standard daily overview of what’s on the other movie-based cable outlets and, instead, focus solely on what it and the Sundance Channel have to offer. Beyond that premise, however, we will still only concentrate on the best of the best, the most inspiring of the inspiring, the most meaningful of the…well, you get the idea. For the week of 18, November, here are our royal recommendations:


IFC

: Every Tuesday in November is Janus Films night. For the 21st, the selections are:



Beauty and the Beast
Jean Cocteau’s adaptation of the classic fairy tale is perhaps the most visually sumptuous and optically stunning monochrome motion picture ever made. Every frame is a fine masterwork come to life. (9PM EST)


Black Orpheus
This retelling of the “Orpheus and Eurydice” legend, set in Rio de Janeiro, is given a warm and sexy façade thanks to director Marcel Camus and the movie’s crazed Carnaval backdrop. (10:35PM EST)


Alexander Nevsky
Sergei Eisenstein’s pro-Stalin era propaganda piece, shrouded in the amazing music of Prokofiev, stands as a testament to the power of visuals and iconography, especially during wartime. (12:25AM EST)


Sundance Channel



19 November - To Kill a Mockingbird
Gregory Peck shines as sly Southern lawyer Atticus Finch in what still stands as the only legitimate adaptation of Harper Lee’s literary masterpiece.
(3PM EST)


20 November - The Nomi Song
He remains one of the ‘80s most unusual and enigmatic icons. This delightful documentary by Andrew Horn does a great job of capture this musician’s magic – and mania. 
(1:15PM EST)


24 November -Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia
The late, great Warren Oates is electrifying in this fascinating fever dream of a movie director by the legendary iconoclastic auteur, Sam Peckinpah
(4PM EST)


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Thursday, Nov 9, 2006


Remember how, a few weeks back, we here at SE&L warned you about getting a hobby and avoiding the weekly offerings posted by your favorite premium movie channel? Well, we hope you heeded said sage advice since the selections up for grabs this weekend are about as poor as the Republicans’ showing on election night (rimshot, if you please). From another chance to see how Hollywood views the South to incredibly bad kid vid, it’s a bad bet all around. Those who still believe that there is magic left in a certain Mr. Lucas’ slowly evaporating space operatics, will probably be pleased by the day long celebration of his fiscal fame on Cinemax. And believe it or not, a certain German director who is more than happy to put his boxing gloves where his talent isn’t, has a few demented defenders as well. But when it comes right down to it, unless you’re willing to wait until mid-week to see some stellar presentations on the lesser-known pay cable channels (read; IFC and Sundance), you’re stuck with some mighty mediocre fare. The flaccid foursome making your Saturday, 11 November night noxious are:


HBOThe Dukes of Hazzard*

Ouch! Here’s a film so painfully pathetic that SE&L has a hard time even THINKING about it, let alone discussing it. Marketed to make money by trading on Johnny Knoxville’s Jackass fanbase, as well as Jessica Simpson’s dumbass personality, the end result was a one note novelty that proved the potential of the adolescent male demographic to show up for almost anything. Following this formula, it won’t be long before someone supes up Nanny and the Professor with the Pussycat Dolls as a determined group of barely dressed babysitters, and Bam Margera as the lonely widower teacher desperate for help raising his wee ones. Now just add Li’l Jon as the nutty next-door neighbor and you’ve got another hap-Hazzard style payday. After soiling Cinemax, it’s now HBO’s turn. (Premieres Saturday 11 November, 8:00pm EST).


 


CinemaxStar Wars – a.k.a. Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope*

Apparently, Cinemax has stumbled over to the dark side of the filmic Force, joining up with that money-grubbing maniac George Lucas in the continual raping of the entire Star Wars legacy. Not only will the channel by showing all SIX of the Wars films, in order, in HD, for the first time ever, but they are apparently featuring the “Special Edition” versions of the original trilogy, confirming that, when it comes to cinema, commerce supplants before art every time. If you love the latest prequels in all their hideous Hayden Christensen hackwork, by all means, break out your simulated light saber, a package of sugar-coated midichloreans and your Chewbacca underoos and settle in for some lame sci-fi escapism. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars made some movie magic. Now, its creator is just concerned with merchandising this mythology to death. (Saturday 11 November, 10:00pm EST).


 


StarzDoogal

How does an independent film company without its own animation department compete with the studio big boys in the ultra-competitive (and costly) world of computer generated junk? Why, you import a sappy French revamp of a British kiddie ‘classic’, re-dub most of the voices to maximize the mandatory stunt casting conceit of the genre, and fool the wee ones into thinking its another Shrek sequel. This mediocre mumbo jumbo about magical diamonds that can freeze the sun and a dog-led gang of heroes hoping to thwart evil is so faux hip, so wannabe cool that it collides with its own pointlessness to create a black hole sized void of ineptitude. It is possible that some of the more mentally challenged members of the intended demographic could look at this lousy CG cartoon and find something to celebrate, but with so many superior efforts available elsewhere, why even bother? (Premieres Saturday 11 November, 9:00pm EST).


 


ShowtimeBloodRayne

Dr. Uwe Boll may be able to kick some online film critic buttocks, but he is still incapable of making a professional grade film. Part of the problem is that he continually focuses his careless cinematic efforts on adaptations of subpar video games. The other reason, however, is that Boll is basically inept when it comes to putting a narrative together. This scattered, slipshod attempt to fiddle with the vampire mythos contains nothing but lame action sequences, non-existent characterization, and enough disinterested acting nods (from Ben Kingsley, Billy Zane and Michael Madsen, specifically) to guarantee a bad time at the movies. Then Boll works his own Teutonic talentlessness on the entire process, and what was merely a bomb becomes an abomination. Making House of the Dead look decent is a hard feat to accomplish. BloodRayne manages to do that…and not much else. (Saturday 11 November, 9:15pm EST)


 


 


The Cream of the Crop

In honor of IFC’s month-long celebration of Janus Films, SE&L will skip the standard daily overview of what’s on the other movie-based cable outlets and, instead, focus solely on what it and the Sundance Channel have to offer. Beyond that premise, however, we will still only concentrate on the best of the best, the most inspiring of the inspiring, the most meaningful of the…well, you get the idea. For the week of 11, November, here are our royal recommendations:


IFC

: Every Tuesday in November is Janus Films night. For the 14th, the selections are:



The White Sheik
Before he was the master of the absurd, Fellini was creating, warm, witty fables like this one, revolving around a newlywed, her honeymoon, and the actor she idolizes.
(9PM EST)


Mr. Hulot’s Holiday
Combining slapstick with satire, French film legend Jacques Tati created the classic title character for this unflinching comedic look at how the leisure class lives.
(10:30PM EST)


Loves of a Blond
As part of the “Czech New Wave” future Oscar winner Milos Forman came to the attention of the West with this wonderful ensemble comedy.
(12AM EST)



Sundance Channel


11 November - Fahrenheit 451
Though somewhat flawed, François Truffaut’s adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s topical sci-fi novel still has plenty of prescient bite.
(11PM EST)


13 November - Pink Flamingos
The film that turned director John Waters into a Midnight Movie icon, this masterpiece of contemporary cynicism is just as joyfully jaded 34 years later.
(2:40AM EST)


14 November - Brazil
Mired in studio politics and misunderstood upon its initial release, Terry Gilliam’s future shock send-up is today one of the director’s most beloved and brave works. 
(10PM EST)


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Thursday, Oct 26, 2006


For the second week in a row, the premium pay channels on your local cable server are offering up nothing worth watching. You’d think that with Halloween just three days away, and industry film vaults bulging with possible tie-in terror titles, we’d be seeing something scarier on the small screen than a bad X-mas comedy and further proof of how far a former funny man has fallen. Where’s the non-stop splatter marathons? The groovy ghoulie epics involving blood and body parts? How about a hint of horror from decades past, a full blown three day long b-movie orgy of giant insects, nuclear mutants, and everyone’s favorite flesh fiends, the incredibly put upon zombie? Nope, apparently that will all be arriving just before Trick or Treat time. In the meanwhile, call up some friends and rent one of the newer cinematic scarefests – sensational new titles like Slither, Silent Hill or Hostel. Only the biggest cinematic sadist would waste a moment of their valuable viewing time on the ordinary offerings this week. For those still interested, here’s what the coaxial calls entertainment for the weekend of 28 October:


HBOJust Friends

Maybe it’s the unconvincing fat suit that actor Ryan Reynolds sports during this dull RomCom’s setup. Maybe it’s the horrid fright wig perm he dons as well. It could be the lackadaisical approach to love that seems to suggest that people only fully self-actualize when they drop the pounds, rake in the dinero and start screwing everything in sight. Whatever the case may be, this minor blip on the Tinsel Town radar actual sold itself as a Gen X holiday romp during last year’s Noel. Credit director and friend of Friend David Schwimmer, Roger Kumble for managing to parlay his perfectly ordinary credits (the first two Cruel Intention films and the sloppy girl groaner The Sweetest Thing) into a continuing career behind the lens. Several significantly more talented men are forced to fight for the chance to make a movie, and yet Kumble can churn out the crap and still get a job. In fact, said reality is probably the only interesting thing about this otherwise dull as a doormat diversion. (Premieres Saturday 28 October, 8:00pm EST).


CinemaxThe 40 Year Old Virgin*

This may be going against the commonly held opinion of this so called ‘classic’, but SE&L just didn’t get this unrealistic look at a middle-aged man whose intact virtue supposedly makes him hilarious. All minor laughs aside, the biggest problem with the slightly surreal story is how unrealistic it is. Steve Carell lives like the ultimate dork (call him Pee Wee Herman with better career goals) and has more support than anyone lacking a sex life should. That he manages, through the typical series of setpiece sequences, to discover the reasons behind his rejection and finally find an outlet for his libido makes the story even more shallow. This is basically a one joke film (Carell as horndog without a human hydrant to provide relief) and the infrequent moments of all out comedy (many provided by co-star Seth Rogen) don’t remove the undercurrent of cruelness from the narrative. Basically, Virgin argues that individuality only works when karma carves out a soul mate for you – not necessarily the most apropos foundation for funny. (Premieres Saturday 28 October, 10:00pm EST).


PopMatters Review


StarzFun with Dick and Jane

For anyone wondering why Jim Carrey has fallen out of the public eye recently, a look over his last few films will answer the question easily enough. Beginning with The Majestic, and moving along through Bruce Almighty (good, but gimmicky) the sensational Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the spotty Lemony Snicket, his box office mantle has been pretty paltry as of late. Granted, his turn as God was an unexpected hit, but the rest of his efforts were seen as disappointments. Under this theory, Fun with Dick and Jane, another pointless Hollywood remake, had no chance. It didn’t help matters much that the overall tone of the film was flawed, moving between realism and ridiculousness with plot plodding difficulty, but Carrey ended up having very little to do except turn on the mannered mugging and hope for the best. Seen as one of several reasons why Carrey recently dumped his professional representatives, this film definitely feels lost in a morass of focus group fog. (Premieres Saturday 28 October, 9:00pm EST).


PopMatters Review


ShowCaseBeyond the Sea

With all the chat fest showboating over his ability to mimic famous faces, it seemed inevitable that two time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey would find a biopic that would suit his unusual talent perfectly. Sadly, this look at Bobby Darin’s life and times is not that story. Perhaps it has something to do with the odd way in which director Spacey presents the facts. Instead of a typical tale, he manipulates the material in weird, almost idiotic ways. Heartfelt moments crash into comedy, career highpoints slip effortlessly into dark, dour melodrama. But beyond the stylized presentation, the casting is of equal concern. Mr. American Beauty almost pulls off his part (though he just looks too old to successfully sell himself as Darin), but Kate Bosworth is a cipher as Sandra Dee, and even worse, John Goodman looks literally uncomfortable as Darin’s manager. There are moments of magic peaking out from behind the arcane approach and lackluster performances, but in the end, we only learn one thing: Darin deserves better. (Saturday 21 October, 9:00pm EST)


PopMatters Review


 


ZOMBIES!

For those of you who still don’t know it, Turner Classic Movies has started a new Friday night/Saturday morning feature entitled “The TCM Underground”, a collection of cult and bad b-movies hosted by none other than rad rocker turned atrocity auteur Rob Zombie. From time to time, when SE&L feels Mr. Devil’s Rejects is offering up something nice and sleazy, we will make sure to put you on notice. For 27/28 October, the choices are one horrific hit, and another macabre miss:


Night of the Living Dead (1968)
George Romero’s timeless zombie film has been called everything from an erudite social commentary to a taut political polemic. What is frequently forgotten is how downright creepy it really is. Tis the perfect season to rediscover its famous fear factors. (1:00am EST)


The Crazies
With his third feature film (after Season of the Witch) Romero returned to familiar ground – too familiar for some fright fans. Similar to 28 Days Later in that these are nutjobs, not the undead, that the military are after, this is one of the master’s lesser efforts. (2:45am EST)


 


Seven Films, Seven Days

For October, the off title idea is simple – pick a different cable channel each and every day, and then find a film worth watching. While it sounds a little like an exercise in entertainment archeology, you’d be surprised at the broad range of potential motion picture repasts in the offing. Therefore, the fourth installment of acceptable selections for this week include:



28 October - The Omen (1976)
Forget the horrendous remake that came out in 2006 and revisit this timeless classic, featuring impressive performances from Gregory Peck and Lee Remick.
(Encore – 8PM EST)


29 October - So I Married an Axe Murderer
Before Shrek made him more or less untouchable, Mike Meyers actually tried to make funny movies. Here’s one of his more oddball attempts.
(Flix – 6:25PM EST)


30 October - Radio Days
Woody Allen revisits his youth in this wistful, and genuinely comic look at life during wartime, when the wireless was the universal link to everything that was important.
(Movieplex – 6:45PM EST)


31 October -Masque of the Red Death
Roger Corman often gets ridiculed for his lesser monster movies. But there’s nothing but respect for his Poe adaptations, with this visionary example being his best.
(Tuner Classic Movies – 7PM EST)


1 November - National Lampoon’s Vacation
A new month, a new attitude – one perfectly encompassed by this wildly wicked comedy about one man’s attempt at having a real family holiday.
(AMC – 8PM EST)


2 November - The Ballad of Jack and Rose
Many missed this unique take on the inherent connection between father and daughter. While not wholly successful, it deserves a look just the same.
(The Movie Channel – 9:30PM EST)


3 November -Drumline
Far from original, this formulaic take on one youth’s desire to join a nationally recognized show-style band is still an entertaining, even inspiring film.
(TNT – 8PM EST)


 


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Thursday, Oct 12, 2006

Though at first glance it may not appear to be true, it really is a celebration of foreign films this weekend on your favorite movie channel. Three of the four entries discussed in this installment of Viewer Discretion Advised come from people and places outside our own broad borders. Granted, two were made by Canadians and one is an Aussie export, but the outsider mentality is still strong in this interesting creative collection. As a matter of fact, when placed up against the sole bit of America motion picture making on the schedule, us Yankees look pretty pathetic. Between terse looks at the horrors of human hostility and the ways in which stardom breeds contempt and corruption, a dopey little actioner about genetic engineering doesn’t stand much of an aesthetic chance. Perhaps it’s proof that, when it comes to exploring the extremes of cinema, international contingents have a better handle on the difference between art and artifice. For those interested in what’s cooking on those preeminent pay stations for the week of 14 October, here are the choices:


HBOThe Island

One of 2005’s biggest debacles, here was a typical high concept action movie that didn’t really live up to expectations. Godfather of the gauche epic, Michael Bay, may have thought he could fool film fans with his high tech retread of Parts: The Clonus Horror, but by casting the frequently flat Ewen McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, this sterile sci-fi film was guaranteed never to quite take off. If you can get through the cheesy first hour, filled with way too much sloppy future shock speculation and Big Brother bullshit, you may actually enjoy yourself. Heck, there are worse ways to spend a Saturday night than with a superficial serving of speculative silliness. Besides, no one knows action better than Bay. Sister station Cinemax has had this flawed, bloated pseudo-blockbuster plastered all over its channels for the last couple of months. Now its time for those only privy to Home Box Office to experience this serving of entertainment entropy.(Premieres Saturday 14 October, 8:00pm EST).


PopMatters Review


CinemaxA History of Violence

*
One of last years’ best films came from one of the industry’s most unusual cinematic sources – Canadian horror hero David Cronenberg. Who would have thought that the man behind such philosophical splatter fests as Rabid, Scanners and Videodrome would take some graphic novel source material and turn out a searing crime drama featuring fascinating performances by Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris, William Hurt and Maria Bello. This is a movie that’s as brutal in its emotions as it is in its title bloodshed, with secrets revealed, true selves unmasked and homespun wholesomeness soiled and sullied. Though never as flashy or flamboyant as his work in films like The Fly, eXistenZ, or his adaptation of William Burroughs’ classic novel Naked Lunch, Cronenberg’s camera is still stellar, painting a near perfect portrait of the potential evil lurching inside the heart of Middle America. Not since David Lynch’s masterful Blue Velvet has small town life seemed so sinister. (Premieres Saturday 14 October, 10:00pm EST).


PopMatters Review


StarzWolf Creek

*
Heavily hyped upon its release to theaters, this Australian horror film never quite connected with audiences. Granted, it’s gritty low budget leanings may have turned off fright fans used to the gloss of the mainstream movie macabre, and the narrative does borrow liberally from other cruel classics like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Hostel. But with its “based on true events” tagline, and gratuitous influx of gore, what should have been a sleeper hit instead just calmly came and went. As part of Starz’s 24 hour terror marathon (starting on Friday 13 October with the channel’s documentary on the slasher film) the small screen may be the perfect place for this overlooked effort. In the comfort of your own home, the intense atmosphere of dismay and eventual unrelenting violence may seem less shocking. One thing’s for sure – the Down Under tourist boards can’t be happy about the impression this film offers.  (Premieres Saturday 14 October, 9:00pm EST).


PopMatters Review


ShowTOOWhere the Truth Lies

*
What if the break up between Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, history’s most famous and popular entertainment duo, was driven by elements other than ego? What if there was a nasty secret between the pair, a secret shrouded in murder, and a massive cover-up? This is part of the premise for Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan’s adaptation of Rupert Holmes’ novel centering on the ominous reasons behind the split of a fictional comedy act. With Kevin Bacon assuming the Lewis role and Colin Firth essaying a real Rat Pack composite, the acting is excellent. Unfortunately, many found Egoyan’s tone at odds with the narrative’s more darkly comic elements. And some may still be put off by the film’s unrelenting reliance of sex to sell its sleaze and subtext (the movie was originally rated NC-17, before edits). Still, for a drama with a decidedly different bent, this is one of last year’s lost treasures. (Saturday 14 October, 10:00pm EST)


PopMatters Review


Seven Films, Seven Days

For October, the off title idea is simple – pick a different cable channel each and every day, and then find a film worth watching. While it sounds a little like an exercise in entertainment archeology, you’d be surprised at the broad range of potential motion picture repasts in the offing. Therefore, the third sequence of seven films featured this week includes:



14 October - Mystery Train
Jim Jarmusch’s triptych take on the King is both boldly original and oddly effecting. Besides, any film featuring Screamin’ Jay Hawkins is all right in SE&L’s book.
(Flix – 10PM EST)


15 October - Primer
Four friends develop a device which may or may not be some sort of time machine. The implications, or the lack thereof, become the basis for this fine low budget effort. 
(Movie Channel – 9:45PM EST)


16 October - Basic Instinct (Edited Version)
Another entertaining exercise in editing courtesy of those crackpots over at American Movie Classics. Only slightly better than the CGI bikini and bottoms of VH-1’s censored Showgirls.
(AMC – 8PM EST)


17 October -The Misfits
Clark Cable. Marilyn Monroe. Eli Wallach. Montgomery Clift. Arthur Miller. John Huston. Enough said.
(Encore Westerns – 8PM EST)


18 October - The Magnificent Ambersons
If you failed to catch this flawed Orson Welles masterwork when it was part of a day long celebration of star Joseph Cotton, now’s the time to take a look.
(Turner Classic Movies – 8PM EST)


19 October - Dune
David Lynch takes on one of sci fi’s most beloved novels, and delivers his own unique take of speculative fiction. Not to be missed.
(Movie Plex – 8:45PM EST)


20 October -Deep Blue Sea
Want proof that Samuel L. Jackson can elevate even the lamest cinematic premise. Along with LL. Cool J, our man Sam saves this ‘Smart Sharks in an Underwater Laboratory” lunacy.
(TNT – 11PM EST)


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Thursday, Oct 5, 2006

Call it an ‘Awards Wannabe’ weekend on the premium movie channels. Mixed in among all the mindless comedies, baffling ‘b’ genre efforts, uninspired action films and draggy dramas, three of the big four film networks are breaking open the Oscar addled entries from last year’s frustrating Fall season to hopefully provide some glamour to their otherwise gratuitous offerings. Frankly, such a switch up is more than welcome, especially when you consider the completely brainless crud that could be currently available - or sadly, is destined to be part of the future programming schedule for this frustrating quartet. At least three of the offerings are well worth a Saturday night sitting in front of the TV (or an attempted TiVo recording, depending on your social plans) and individually, all argue for a sense of artistry comparatively absent within your typical Tinsel Town fare. Even without a statuette in hand, all four of these films are worth your consideration. Available for sampling the weekend of 7 October are:


HBOWalk the Line

*
Boy oh boy does Tinsel Town love actors who can sing and dance. Granted, it’s part of the medium’s luminous past, and argues for a talent far beyond the standard Method acting elements of modern moviemaking. Still, critics went crazy for this Johnny Cash biopic, with most noting how honorable it was to see leads Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon singing the songs in their own voices. Similar to Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner’s Daughter (but unlike Jessica Lange in the Patsy Cline drama Sweet Dreams) the result was an Oscar for Witherspoon, serious consideration for Phoenix, and a decent box office run. Frankly, there is much more to this movie than a couple of younger generation Hollywood superstars warbling a collection of country and rockabilly classics. Both leads do something that’s rare in a cinematic biography – they get to the true heart of their celebrated counterparts. (Premieres Saturday 7 October, 8:00pm EST).


PopMatters Review


CinemaxJarhead

*
Sam Mendes must have done something in his past to deserve such a rollercoaster ride. When American Beauty hit theaters in 1999, it was immediately embraced as a sensational, satiric skewering of strangled suburban sexual politics. What a difference a few years, and dozens of messageboard debates, makes. Mendes is now condemned for helming one of the worst Best Picture winners in the history of the Academy and his own award is dismissed as a the result of standard Oscar overkill. All of this applies to his fine follow-up, the Gulf War epic Jarhead in the following, unfortunate manner. Instead of embracing this latest effort as its own visually stunning experiment in storytelling, it was cast aside as another example of Mendes meaninglessness as a cinematic entity. As a result, what should have been an acknowledged minor masterwork was poisoned by the Internet’s inane ability to turn everyone into a critic. How horribly unfair. (Premieres Saturday 7 October, 10:00pm EST).


PopMatters Review


StarzMemoirs of a Geisha

Ever since the book became a bestseller, rumors were flying about the eventual big screen adaptation of this project. For the longest time, Stephen Spielberg was positioned as a possible director, and right up to the moment he pulled out, his imprint was all over the approach. With his leaving came a creative void that needed desperately to be filled. With his Best Director nomination in hand for helming Chicago, Rob Marshall was put in charge of the production, and the rest is mediocre moviemaking history. All arguments about the ethnicity of the cast aside (Chinese playing Japanese, for starters) and the misguided decision to make non-English speaking performers phonetically fudge their Western dialogue, Memoirs is still a visually sumptuous effort. Yet many feel this film is all style and absolutely no substance – at least none that was included as part of Arthur Golden’s book. Whether or not they’re right is up for argument, and thanks to Starz and its various premium channel showcases, they’ll be plenty of chances for viewers to decide for themselves. (Premieres Saturday 7 October, 9:00pm EST).


PopMatters Review


ShowtimeDave Chappelle’s Block Party

*
While he was apparently too whacked out on sudden fame to continue his Comedy Central series, the brilliant, if baffling comedian Dave Chappelle was well enough to collaborate with French auteur Michel Gondry for this Wattstax-inspired concert film. With such a substantive cinematic heritage to contend with (the 1973 effort is one of live music’s forgotten masterpieces) and the baggage the star brought along, success seemed slight – or at the very least, destined to be determined demographically. Unbelievably, the movie was incredibly well received, with appeal that crossed over generations, races and other social classes. Thanks to Gondry’s inherent ability behind the lens, and Chappelle’s unbridled braveness in front of it, what could have been a standard concert experience becomes a celebration of humor and humanity that’s infectious in its effectiveness. While the small screen may diminish some of its impact, this is still an experience to seek out and enjoy. (Saturday 7 October, 7:05pm EST)


PopMatters Review


Seven Films, Seven Days

For October, the off title idea is simple – pick a different cable channel each and every day, and then find a film worth watching. While it sounds a little like an exercise in entertainment archeology, you’d be surprised at the broad range of potential motion picture repasts in the offing. Therefore, the second seven selections unearthed this week include:



7 October - Jay-Z: Fade to Black
The rap impresario used his “retirement” from performing to put on this star studded live concert. One of the best hip hop happenings every captured on film.
(The Movie Channel – 11:20PM EST)


8 October - In Cold Blood
With Infamous hitting theaters and Capote fresh in everyone’s mind, here’s a chance to see Richard Brooks’ masterful 1967 take on the celebrated “nonfiction novel”.
(Flix – 10:15PM EST)


9 October - Dances with Wolves
Some argue that Kevin Costner was unduly rewarded for this overlong horse opera. Presented in its almost four hour splendor, such sentiments may now be prescient. 
(Encore Western – 8PM EST)


10 October -Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte
With the success of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Bette Davis was looking for another horror film to sustain her career. She got this camp classic instead.
(Turner Classic Movies – 8PM EST)


11 October - The Waterboy
Believe it or not, Sandler plays a real character here, a hopelessly hindered mama’s boy who discovers the joy of team sports – and the local Cajun gal who loves him.
(Encore – 8PM EST)


12 October - Deliverance
While it’s hard to imagine how the censorship-happy channel will handle the infamous “squeal like a pig” sequence, it should be fun finding out.
(American Movie Classics – 8PM EST)


13 October -Wild Wild West
Okay, it’s awful, but it’s filled with inventive visuals to go along with its incredibly lame logistics. Beside’s it’s the perfect bad movie for a day overloaded with silly superstitions.
(TNT – 11PM EST)


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