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Film

23 October

Films That Should Satisfy

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Amelia

Director: Mira Nair
Cast: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Virginia Madsen, Christopher Eccleston
Review [2.Feb.2010]
Review [23.Oct.2009]
23 October
Amelia

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It’s big, bombastic biopic time with America’s first famous female airplane pilot in the crosshairs. Two time Oscar winner Hilary Swank takes on the ‘30s icon, a ray of feminist sunshine in a country mired in a Great Depression and a pending World War. Directed by Mira Nair, who’s undeniable visual flair peppered pictures like Mississippi Masala and The Namesake, this does look remarkable. The period detail is crisp and the casting impeccable. Still, one can’t help but get the feeling that this film will probably suffer from something we like to call The Valkyrie Syndrome. Since almost everyone knows how Amelia Earhart’s story ends, there will be a real lack of suspense in how her life in the limelight gets there. It will be up to the insights and personal plotpoints uncovered to make up for what is an already predetermined ending.


 

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Astro Boy

Director: David Bowers
Cast: Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, Kristen Bell, Eugene Levy, Nathan Lane, Bill Nighy, Madeline Carroll, Matt Lucas
23 October
Astro Boy


It’s time for another CGI adventure, this time revolving around the classic Japanese manga character from the 1960s. Of course, everything is updated and Westernized, retrofitted to please an otherwise clueless pre-teen demographic. The storyline promises to follow the original origins of the character, and the design work and animation have a nice sense of depth and detail. But there is still the problem of approach. The narrative centers on a young automaton’s search for self, a journey of discovery brought about when his inventor/father fails to fully accept him. One imagines this material being significantly lightened for the Ice Age/Shrek crowd. While the action scenes are jawdropping and the voice talent involved (Freddy Highmore, Nicholas Cage, Bill Nighy) solid, there are more questions here than answers. Astro Boy could become a new post-millennial icon. He could also end up a misguided cross cultural cop out.


 

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Antichrist

Director: Lars Von Trier
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg
Review [23.Oct.2009]
23 October
Antichrist


Lars Von Trier is not afraid of controversy. As a major proponent of the stripped down, no frills Dogme ‘95 style of filmmaking, he’s remained steadfast to his own unique vision, even when it undermined his larger artistic ambitions. Now he’s dabbling in psychological terror, presenting the story of a couple who seek solace in the woods after the death of their child. Told in three main phases (reflective of the Three Beggars figures that feature symbolically in the story), Von Trier explores elements both sexual and surreal as his two main actors (Willem Dafoe and Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Winner Charlotte Gainsbourg) battle each other physically as well as mentally for a kind of post-grief catharsis. Considered overtly violent and somewhat misogynistic, critical opinion has been divided. Some have called it a masterpiece. Others consider it a misguided mess. As always, Von Trier has the last laugh.


 
Films That May Leave You Starving

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Saw VI

Director: Kevin Greutert
Cast: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Shawnee Smith, Tanedra Howard, Mark Rolston, Betsy Russell
23 October
Saw VI


Groan. Talk about your played-out franchises. When Darren Lynn Bousman left to helm his terrific Goth gore musical Repo: The Genetic Opera, he took all the viability for this series with him. Under his directorial watch, James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s psychological study went through several fascinating arterial spray transformations—puzzle box maze, backstory heavy bloodletting, perfect set up for the next serial killer icon. But since then, Part 5 bungled the mythology, making the mistake of added ancillary characters and heretofore unheard of motivations to the mix. Suddenly, what seemed like an annual rite of body part passage has turned into yet another unnecessary cinematic cash cow. You can tell how much faith Lionsgate has in this latest installment—it’s already mid-September (at the time of this writing) and we’ve yet to see anything beyond a vague teaser trailer.


 

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Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant

Director: Paul Weitz
Cast: Chris Massoglia, Josh Hutcherson, John C. Reilly, Michael Ceveris
23 October
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant


We blame Twilight for this new unsettling fascination with neckbiters: Twilight and HBO’s True Blood. Also, shouldn’t Ray Bradbury be preparing a plagiarism lawsuit of some sort? This sounds an awful lot like a Dracula-redesigned Something Wicked This Way Comes. The story centers on a young teen named Darren Shan who manages to mess up a centuries old truce between two feuding vampire clans. Within a world of sideshow attractions and supernatural nonsense, our hero learns of his eventual role in the realigning of the undead fates. Sounds really spooky, right? Actually, this is just another example of horror being hemmed in by fashionable trends and kid lit illegitimacy. Just think, if Anne Rice hadn’t turned Nosferatu into a whining wuss, we may have been saved from spook show schlock like this. Not even the presence of John C. Reilly can salvage it.





The Ala Carte Menu

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The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

Director: Rebecca Miller
Cast: Robin Wright Penn, Alan Arkin, Keanu Reeves, Monica Bellucci, Julianne Moore, Maria Bello, Blake Lively, Winona Ryder
Review [21.Mar.2010]
Review [18.Dec.2009]
23 October
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee


Daniel Day-Lewis’s wife, Rebecca Miller (daughter of famed playwright Arthur), adapts her own novel for the screen, the story of a young woman, married to an older man, who finds her life turned upside down when he decides to move to a retirement community. Soon, marital infidelities flair up and Pippa’s mental state starts to suffer. Early reviews have been all over the map, some calling the film “inspired” while others find it dull and derivative. Many have also pointed out the numerous high profile cast members—Julianne Moore, Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder—locked into oddball, idiosyncratic characters. With a lightweight storyline and not much room to grow, this is one drama that draws on its significant star power to validate its purpose. Apparently, it doesn’t quite succeed.


Since deciding to employ his underdeveloped muse muscles over five years ago, Bill has been a significant staff member and writer for three of the Web's most influential websites: DVD Talk, DVD Verdict and, of course, PopMatters. He also has expanded his own web presence with Bill Gibron.com a place where he further explores creative options. It is here where you can learn of his love of Swindon's own XTC, skim a few chapters of his terrifying tome in the making, The Big Book of Evil, and hear samples from the cassette albums he created in his college music studio, The Scream Room.


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