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Watching "Prometheus"
Published on June 12, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the new film "Prometheus," which I loved.

Here's an excerpt:

"A lot of people had really high expectations for 'Prometheus.' I wasn’t one of them. I do like 'Alien' and 'Aliens,' but I haven’t seen any of the other films in the franchise, and I’m generally not given to ruminating on the mythology of made-up movie worlds for more than five minutes.

This attitude might explain why I loved 'Prometheus,' which might or might not be a prequel to 'Alien,' but is definitely set in the same universe. Both films were directed by Ridley Scott, who in recent years has made his share of mediocre films, but demonstrates why his early work generated so much excitement.

'Prometheus' is the rare film that is worth seeing in 3-D, and its astonishing special effects and visual design are the main reason I’m willing to forgive virtually all of its flaws. Salon film critic Andrew O’Hehir suggests that Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography, Arthur Max’s production design, and the art direction of John King, Marc Homes, Karen Wakefield and their team are the true stars of the film, and I have to agree. From the film’s entrancing opening scene, in which the camera sweeps over a landscape of stunning beauty, before settling on an alien who disintegrates into a waterfall, his DNA triggering some sort of transformative event, I was completely engrossed."

Click here to read more.


Watching "Snow White and the Huntsman"
Published on June 5, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write a mostly negative review of "Snow White and the Huntsman."

Here's an excerpt:

"The idea of adapting fairy tales for the big screen appeals to me.

I like fantasy and myth, as well as cool special-effects, and fairy tales offer filmmakers a golden opportunity to spin exciting yarns populated by unusual creatures and archetypal characters. But execution is a tricky thing. Filmmakers have never had better technology at their disposal, and yet I’m becoming more and more convinced that few directors possess the vision to use it properly. “Snow White and the Huntsman” is a sumptuous visual feast from start to finish, but it’s also surprisingly flat: I enjoyed looking at the world director Ruper Sanders had created, but I didn’t really care about it. The film is often quite beautiful (as well as grimy and gross), but it lacks the distinctive touches and quirks — as well as the vibrant personalities — that made less sophisticated films such as 'Labyrinth' and 'The Princess Bride' such beloved classics.

'Snow White and the Huntsman' takes its source material very seriously, and there’s nothing wrong with that. (2012’s other big Snow White adaptation, 'Mirror Mirror,' took a more tongue-in-cheek approach to the fairy tale.) I was actually looking forward to seeing a fairy tale film that was dark and macabre, that tapped into the deranged and frightening spirit of the Brothers Grimm, that wasn’t Disneyfied, or 'Shrek'-ified. I’m a big Charlize Theron fan, and I thought she’d make a very good evil queen. I also like Kristen Stewart, who plays Snow White, well enough, and I’m intrigued by Chris Hemsworth, who I enjoyed in 'The Cabin in the Woods' and 'The Avengers,' and who plays the huntsman."

Click here to read the whole thing.


God Bless Bobcat
Published on June 3, 2012 by guest author: J.K. Eisen

During the 1980s, actor Bobcat Goldthwait wasn’t known so much for what he said, but how he said it. His screechy, manic voice can be found in the Police Academy movies and other films from the period. Now that he’s a writer and director, Goldthwait is demonstrating that he has something to say as well.

His latest movie, "God Bless America," is proof. Goldthwait’s dark comedy takes a critical look at the world of reality TV and pop culture – a world where bad behavior or a willingness to embarrass yourself can turn you into a star overnight.

Though a lot of attention has focused on the violence in the film, Goldthwait’s all-too-real depiction of how reality TV has infected other aspects of society, such as politics, may be more disturbing.

"God Bless America" is the story of Frank (Joel Murray), a man who is fed up with the world he sees on his TV. When Frank loses his job after a kind gesture is misinterpreted by a co-worker, it’s proof to Frank that the world has lost its bearings. As Frank puts it, what’s the point of having a civilization if we are no longer interested in being civilized? (More)


Two Documentaries About The Arctic
Published on May 31, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about two documentaries about the arctic, both silent, that are well worth checking out: "Nanook of the North" and "South."

Click here to learn more.


Film Capsules
Published on May 21, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about some of the recent films I've watched on DVD, including "The Secret of Kells" and "The Man in the White Suit."

Click here to read it.


At Least I've Never Lost $2 Billion
Published on May 15, 2012 by Sara Foss

When I was a kid, I often lost things, like mittens and shoes. This infuriated my mother, who responded to such losses by making me feel like I'd committed a terrible crime. But I never lost $2 billion, and although this strikes me as a far more serious crime, I have this nagging suspicion that our elected officials are going to respond to JPMorgan's stunning loss of $2 billion by throwing their hands up in the air and saying that it's regrettable, but nothing can be done, either to punish JPMorgan, or to prevent future mishaps.

What I love about JPMorgan's $2 billion lose is that their CEO Jamie Dimon is considered one of the smarter bankers, and his bank is considered one of the better banks. Which raises the question: Can you really be considered smart if you head up a company that loses $2 billion? Can your bank really be considered a good bank if it loses $2 billion? I mean, that is a lot of money! Losing that much money is basically the opposite of what a bank should be doing.

Nevertheless, we're already seeing the same stories and op-eds we saw four years ago when the banks ruined the global economy, examining how this could have happened, whether more regulation is needed, whether the banks are too big, etc. I feel like I'm living in the movie "Groundhog Day," except in my scenario a financial catastrophe occurs every two years, prompting everybody to wring their hands and wonder what hit them.

 (More)


Watching "The Avengers"
Published on May 15, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review "The Avengers."

Click here to see what I thought.


The 50 Greatest Movie Romances
Published on May 9, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at MSN Movies, Glenn Kenny has put together a pretty interesting list of the 50 greatest movie romances. It includes some pretty standard choices, such as "Titanic" and "Gone With the Wind" (a movie I hate, by the way), but also some more offbeat selections, such as Luis Bunuel's "That Obscure Object of Desire" and Hal Ashby's "Harold and Maude."

Anyway, click here to see the list.


Watching "The Deep Blue Sea"
Published on May 9, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Terence Davies film, "The Deep Blue Sea."

Here's an excerpt:

“'The Deep Blue Sea' is a deeply felt and richly textured examination of a love triangle, centering on a strong-willed woman named Hester (Rachel Weisz) who leaves her older husband, Sir William, for a younger lover, named Freddie. Neither of these men are quite worthy of Hester, a smart, vibrant and passionate woman who, as the film opens, is attempting to gas herself to death because Freddie has neglected her on her birthday. How did things get so bad? And is there any hope?

Based on a play by Terence Rattigan, 'The Deep Blue Sea' is a bit of a chamber piece, focused primarily on Hester and the two men who orbit around her. But it also paints a vivid and detailed portrait of post-World War II England — of sing-a-longs in pubs, and chilly rooming houses and bombed-out streetscapes that have yet to be rebuilt. The love triangle that propels the plot could only happen against this somewhat shell-shocked backdrop — a veteran, Freddie (Tom Hiddleston) has struggled to adapt to civilian life, and taken to drinking too much, while Hester remains haunted by memories of life during the Blitz. As she contemplates suicide in a subway station, she remembers joining her fellow citizens there during a bombing raid, her husband’s arms around her, as a soldier sings 'Molly Malone.'"

Click here for more.


Watching "The Cabin in the Woods"
Published on May 1, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new horror movie "The Cabin in the Woods."

Here's an excerpt:

"WARNING: THERE ARE SPOILERS THROUGHOUT THIS REVIEW. DON’T READ IT IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS!

I knew very little about the new horror film 'The Cabin in the Woods.' I knew it had an unusual twist that would supposedly blow me away, but I had no idea what that twist entailed. I assumed the film would be a bit like 'Scream' — a self-aware horror comedy that deconstructs the genre while also paying tribute to it, and providing genuine scares. So I was somewhat confused by the film’s opening scene, which features two middle-aged technocrats, played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, amiably chatting by a water cooler. Where was the cabin in the woods? And the nubile young victims? I felt like I was watching 'The Office.'

'The Cabin in the Woods' does feature nubile young victims — five college students who are heading off to spend a drunken weekend in the woods. The movie actually takes time to develop these characters a bit — they fit clear archetypes (the jock, the stoner, the girl who sleeps around, the girl who doesn’t, the smart guy), but they also subvert those stereotypes.

For instance, the athlete Curt (Chris Hemsworth) is actually a pretty bright guy — we later find out that he’s a sociology major. The college students meet a creepy man at a gas station on their drive to the woods, who warns them against going any further, but they ignore them and eventually arrive at the cabin, which has a few weird quirks, such as a one-way window that enables one to spy on the occupant of an adjoining room."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Watching "The Kid With a Bike"
Published on April 24, 2012 by Sara Foss

This week I review the new film from the Dardenne brothers, "The Kid With a Bike."

Click here to read it.


Film Capsules
Published on April 17, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about some of the movies I've watched recently on DVD, including Guy Maddin's "Careful" and the crazy sci-fi film "Splice."

Click here to read them.


Watching "Max Headroom"
Published on April 16, 2012 by Sara Foss

I was 12 when the TV show "Max Headroom" aired, and although the concept intrigued me, I wasn't allowed to watch it.

In another era, "Max Headroom" might have faded into obscurity, but we live in the TV-on-DVD era, and the show is available through Netflix. Last week, I sat down and watched the first four episodes, in an effort to learn more about the cult hit I missed out on when I was a kid.

Overall, "Max Headroom" is pretty inspired - a subversive, cyberpunk critique of media and capitalism that I still can't quite believe aired on a major television network. Set "20 Minutes Into the Future" the show depicts a dystopian society where TV stations and huge corporations control virtually everything, but a crusading journalist named Edison Carter manages to expose widespread corruption on his popular news show. TVs are omnipresent - they are located in store windows and homeless encampments, and they are always on - and ratings are a matter of life and death. In the first episode, Edison discovers that his network is airing advertisements that are so intense they can make sedentary viewers to explode. (Called blipverts, the ads last about three seconds, but pack in several minutes worth of information.) The network attempts to silence Edison, and he's injured and left for dead during a high speed chase.

 (More)


Watching "21 Jump Street"
Published on April 11, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new dumb cop comedy "21 Jump Street." 

Click here to read it.


Watching "Jeff, Who Lives at Home"
Published on April 3, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Duplass brothers movie "Jeff, Who Lives at Home."

Here's an excerpt:

"The new film 'Jeff, Who Lives at Home' is endearing, but also exasperating — an enjoyable movie that doesn’t stand up to thoughtful analysis once it’s over. Individual scenes and performances are memorable and interesting, but the story becomes increasingly implausible as the film moves along.

This is deliberate: 'Jeff, Who Lives at Home' is about the search for meaning, and takes place in a world where everything happens for a reason and there are no coincidences. It’s a low-key, cosmic comedy, shot in a naturalistic style that makes it seem more rooted in the real world than it actually is. This film is a fantasy, set in a mundane world of office cubicles and chain restaurants and cheerless basements.

Jeff (Jason Segal) is a jobless 30-year-old who lives in his mother’s basement and smokes pot all day. He’s good-hearted but depressed, and has recently become obsessed with the M. Night Shyamalan film 'Signs,' which he believes accurately describes how the world works. (Sample dialogue: 'I watched ‘Signs’ again last night. It gets better every time I see it.') All I’ll say about this is that 'Signs' is a stupid film, and that only a person who’s stoned out of his mind could look to it for philosophical guidance."

Click here to read more.


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