Recent Viewing: Films
Published on March 25, 2013 by Sara Foss

National Velvet (1944) ****

Violence at Noon (1966) ***

The Last Flight (1931) ****

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) ***

The Invisible War (2012) ****

Never Let Me Go (2010) ****

Watching "Oz the Great and Powerful"
Published on March 21, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review "Oz the Great and Powerful."

Here's an excerpt:

"Don’t be scared off by the lackluster reviews: 'Oz the Great and Powerful' is a fun, magical adventure, one that should appeal to both fans of 'The Wizard of Oz' and people who have never seen the original film. It might not be as good as the 1939 Judy Garland film, but few films are. What we have here is a decent movie that functions as both an homage to a beloved classic, and a smart new take on the rich and inventive world created by author L. Frank Baum.

Directed by Sam Raimi, 'Oz the Great and Powerful' is a prequel that tells the backstory of the wizard of Oz — of how a so-so magician named Oscar (James Franco) remade himself into the man behind the curtain. The film opens at a circus in Kansas, where the rakish Oscar performs for small crowds and seduces the local women by giving them pretty little music boxes and telling them a heart-wrenching story about how it once belonged to his grandmother. Eventually Oscar’s ruse is found out, he flees in a hot air balloon, is whisked away by a tornado and finds himself in Oz.

This Midwestern-set prologue is filmed in sumptuous black-and-white, while Oz is a rich and brightly colored landscape, filled with interesting and unusual creatures, imaginatively designed cities and familiar sights such as the yellow brick road. In Oz, Oscar meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), a good witch who believes that he is the great wizard whose arrival was foretold in prophecy. She brings Oscar back to the Emerald City to meet her sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who warns him about the evil witch Glinda (Michelle Williams). Fans of 'The Wizard of Oz' will immediately wonder what is going on, because Glinda is a good witch in the earlier film."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Reflection on "Park Row"
Published on March 20, 2013 by Sara Foss

About a year ago, I watched Samuel Fuller's 1952 tribute to journalism, "Park Row," and I meant to write something about it, but never did.

However, Criticwire's Matt Singer recently watched the film, and wrote a nice little piece about it.

For the record, I highly recommend "Park Row." Especially if you're a journalist.

Movie Theater Etiquette, Part II
Published on March 19, 2013 by Sara Foss

I've been beating the movie theater etiquette drum lately, but it's a drum that needs to be beaten.

I just got back from seeing "Oz: The Great and Powerful," and there was a couple about three rows behind me, whispering and talking in low voices through the first 20 minutes of the film. This was one night after going to a screening of "Fargo" where a couple gabbed quietly through the whole thing.

I've spent the past 15 minutes reading through movie etiquette posts online, to see what they say about talking in the theater, and most of these posts address the clueless loudmouths who yell and make wildly inappropriate remarks at inappropriate times. These people are obnoxious, and they need to be stopped, but I've decided that quiet talkers/whisperers are almost worse. In my experience, they're more common than the blatant loudmouths, and because their behavior isn't as egregious, they're harder to deal with. In fact, until recently my general inclination has been to tolerate them - after all, they're not that bad. It's not like their cell phone keeps going off, or they're yelling at the screen, or running up the aisles. 

But tonight I decided that these quiet talkers/whisperers must be addressed. They seem to think that talking quietly and/or whispering entitles them provide running commentary throughout an entire movie. And they are mistaken. The etiquette is very clear: You should keep your mouth shut, unless talking is absolutely necessary. For instance, there was a couple sitting in front of me that managed to keep their mouths shut for the entire film, with one exception: When the man got up to go to the bathroom. Then he whispered something to his wife, and quietly exited. These people were not a problem.


Watching "Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey"
Published on March 17, 2013 by Sara Foss

I'm not going to lie: I don't not consider myself a Journey fan.

But there are some Journey songs I like, such as "Faithfully," and the band has one song that ranks among the best: their 1981 monster hit "Don't Stop Believin,'" which has undergone something of a resurgence in recent years, due to "The Sopranos" and "Glee." And the fact that the song is awesome.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago I watched the last episode of "The Sopranos," which uses "Don't Stop Believin'" to great effect in its final scene. I couldn't get the song out of my head, and when I heard that the documentary "Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey" was showing for one night in Albany, I was intrigued. I knew very little about the film, but I was in the mood to learn more about Journey, and so off I went.

"Don't Stop Believin'" tells a great story - a story I'm glad to have been told. It introduces us to Arnel Pineda, a Filipino singer-songwriter who became Journey's lead singer in 2008. How did the band find him? Journey guitarist Neal Schon contacted him after stumbling across YouTube videos of Pineda and his band performing Journey covers. Pineda traveled to the United States from the Phillipines to audition, and the rest is history.


Recent Viewing: Films
Published on March 17, 2013 by Sara Foss

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) ***

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) *** For "Twin Peaks" fans * For everyone else

Warm Bodies (2012) ***

Night Catches Us (2010) ***1/2

Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey (2011) ***

Watching "Warm Bodies"
Published on March 12, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new zombie romantic comedy "Warm Bodies."

Here's an excerpt:

"Just yesterday, I found myself explaining why vampires are more interesting than zombies to my colleagues. 'Vampires often have a tragic backstory,' I said. 'They have personalities and motivations. Zombies don’t have any of those things. They just shuffle around and eat people.'

However, there are exceptions: The new zombie romantic comedy 'Warm Bodies' suggests that zombies can think and feel — that they can, in fact, be interesting. Which is actually a pretty radical twist on the zombie genre, and one that I initially had a hard time accepting. But 'Warm Bodies' is cute and likable, and I found my objections melting away. It doesn’t hurt that our protagonist, a teen zombie named R, is played by Nicholas Hoult, a cute and likable actor.

Directed by Jonathan Levine, 'Warm Bodies' is the only movie I can think of that tells its story from the point of view of the zombie. R tells us his story as he shuffles around the abandoned airport that he and hundreds of other zombies call home. We learn that he cannot remember who he was before he was killed by a zombie, or his name, or much of anything about himself, but that he enjoys listening to vinyl records and looking at old photographs. He is, in other words, a hipster zombie.

When it comes time to feed, R joins up with a pack of zombies and heads out into the city, searching for humans. The humans live in a walled-off compound, but teams of zombie hunters occasionally set forth with the goal of killing as many zombies as possible. And when R encounters the zombie-hunting Julie (Teresa Palmer), it’s love at first sight. Of course, this being a zombie movie, R kills Julie’s boyfriend (Dave Franco) and eats his brain, which allows him to access and experience the boyfriend’s memories."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Finishing "The Sopranos"
Published on March 11, 2013 by Sara Foss

I finally watched the final episode of "The Sopranos."

Click here for my thoughts.

Recent Viewing: Films
Published on March 10, 2013 by Sara Foss

Stay Hungry (1976) ***1/2

How to Survive a Plague (2012) ***1/2

Duck, You Sucker (1971) ***1/2

Side Effects (2013) ***

House of Wax (1953) ***1/3

Watching "Side Effects"
Published on March 5, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Steven Soderbergh movie "Side Effects."

Here's an excerpt:

Steven Soderbergh’s new film 'Side Effects' is a chilly, contemporary film noir that is smart and provocative, but also silly and implausible. It’s sharper than most films, but could be a little sharper. I liked it, but not as much as I would have liked. Some critics have described 'Side Effects' as Hitchcockian, but I don’t think Soderbergh or his film belong in quite the same class.

'Side Effects' focuses on a depressed young woman named Emily (Rooney Mara), whose husband Martin (Channing Tatum) has just been released after four years in prison for insider trading. The transition isn’t easy, and one day Emily presses on the gas and slams her car into the wall of the parking garage. She is hospitalized, and meets a sympathetic psychiatrist, Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), who agrees to release her if she’ll undergo therapy with him. He prescribes her a series of anti-depressants, but none are effective, until she tries a drug called Ablixa. Ablixa works really well, but has one big side effect: It causes sleepwalking. And when SPOILER ALERT! DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS! Emily stabs her husband to death, she claims she doesn’t remember a thing because she was sleepwalking. This seems fairly straightforward, but of course there are some nasty twists and turns, and not everything is as it seems."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Film Capsules
Published on March 4, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I offer up some short reviews on "How to Survive A Plague," "Stay Hungry," "Holy Mountain" and "Despicable Me."

Click here to read them.

Recent Viewing: Films
Published on March 4, 2013 by Sara Foss

Despicable Me (2010) ***1/2

The Hours and the Times (1991) ***

Joyeux Noel (2005) ***

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (1997) ***1/2

Revisiting "Titanic"
Published on February 26, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my recent experience re-watching "Titanic" - a movie I sneered at in college.

Here's an excerpt:

"For a long time, I’ve been interested in watching 'Titanic' again. But I didn’t want to watch it on DVD, on a small screen. I wanted to see it on a giant screen.

I saw 'Titanic' in college, and I was not very impressed. I remember sneering my way through the whole thing, and marveling at a classmate who saw it a half dozen times — if my calculations are correct, this classmate devoted nearly 20 hours of her life to watching 'Titanic.' But after being impressed by director James Cameron’s vision in 'Avatar' and his 2003 documentary 'Ghosts of the Abyss,' in which he and a team of scientists explore the interior of the Titanic using two remotely-operated underwater vehicles, I wondered whether I might be more impressed with 'Titanic’s' scale and craft now that I’m older. So when I heard that Proctor’s was screening the film as part of the American Film Essentials series, I decided I had to go.

So how does 'Titanic' hold up? Overall, extremely well. It is not a perfect movie (what is?), and some of its flaws are pretty cringe-inducing, but the stuff that’s good is really good. Here are some of the things that struck me, right off the bat: Cameron doesn’t mind taking his time. His prologue, involving an elderly Rose and her connection to a mysterious drawing found in a safe on the sunken ship, could be a movie in its own right. And he takes the romance, between young Rose and Jack, slow as well. The film is the work of a filmmaker with real confidence, who is not going to be rushed, because he knows he has a good story to tell."

Click here to read more.

Oscar Predictions
Published on February 24, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I make my Oscar predictions.

Click here to read them.

Recent Viewing: Films
Published on February 24, 2013 by Sara Foss

Dogtooth (2009) ***1/2

California Split (1974) ***1/2

Amour (2012) **1/2

Valhalla Rising (2009) **

Holy Mountain (1973) ****

Le Magnifique (1973) ***1/2

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