Monday, October 31, 2011

Movie of the Week – Monster House

This week’s movie is Monster House (2006).

The Halloween movie is about three teens that discover their neighbor’s house is alive. Thus, they set out to release the spirit haunting the house to protect their neighborhood. The film marks the directorial debut of Gil Kenan (who has since also directed City of Ember). He decided to do the film with all the character performances being 3D motion-captured, which (while the animation already is a bit dated compared to recent stuff) gives the character performances on the screen a lot of life, especially in their facial expressions. The whole film was shot with the actors and then the animation was laid over their performances. It was also the second film to feature the Real-D digital 3D format. It was executively produced by Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, which is probably why it has such a great nostalgic feeling to it. It reminds me of the great movies I loved (and still love) as a kid (things like The Goonies). Douglas Pipes also provides a festive score and the visual aesthetic of the film is fantastic as well, thanks to Kenan, production designer Ed Verreaux and cinematographers Paul Babin and Xavier Perez Grobet. The cast is great as well. It stars newcomers Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner and Spencer Locke. Steve Buscemi is also wonderful in support. Catherine O’Hara, Fred Willard, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Lee, Kevin James, Nick Cannon, Jon Heder, Ryan Newman, and Kathleen Turner are featured as well, many with fun bit parts. Monster House is a great Halloween family movie – it is both scary enough and funny enough to thrill, while having good characters to engage. Though it was made in 2006, it feels like one of the movies of my childhood from the 80s. Check out the trailer.

Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Streaming

Thursday, October 27, 2011

At the Movies – November 2011 – Part 3: This Month’s Best Films

Must-See of the Month:

The Muppets (James Bobin) – Comedy – Nov 23
Summary: Like the classic Muppet movies, this is about the Muppets coming together to save their theatre (from a greedy oil tycoon, specifically for this film). Filmmakers: Director James Bobin of The Flight of the Cochords and The Ali G Show makes his feature debut. Jason Segel (who is also starring and producing) and Nicholas Stroller wrote the script (they made Forgetting Sarah Marshall together), Bret McKenzie is writing a few new songs, Christophe Beck (Crazy, Stupid, Love.) is scoring, Don Burgess (Source Code) is shooting, and Steve Saklad (Up in the Air) is doing the production design. Cast: In addition to the Muppets and Segel, Amy Adams stars and Rashida Jones and Chris Cooper feature in supporting roles. The film also boasts an impressive list of celebrity cameos (here is a full list), highlighted by: Neil Patrick Harris, Emily Blunt, Ricky Gervais, Donald Glover, and Billy Crystal. Expectations: While I am a fan of the Muppets, it is Jason Segel, James Bobin and Bret McKenzie’s involvement in the production of the film that has me excited to see it (just think of Segel’s Dracula Musical in Forgetting Sarah Marshall). The cast and celebrity cameos are also awesome. The myriad of joke and real trailers have been great as well. More so than many of the Holiday family-targeted films coming out in November and December, this has the most potential to be amazing for both children and adults. This is definitely the must-see of the month. Trailer: Here. Review.

Worth Checking Out:

J. Edgar (Clint Eastwood) – Biography – Nov 9
Summary: The film is about J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI – his life, career and secrets. Filmmakers: This project seems like a very good fit for director, producer and composer Clint Eastwood (he has made some good period stuff in the past, like his recent film Changeling). The film is written by Oscar winner (for Milk) Dustin Lance Black, and Eastwood is working with his frequent collaborators cinematographer Tom Stern and production designer James Murakami. Cast: The strong cast starts with the lead Leonardo DiCaprio, but it also has a good supporting group with Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Lucas, Ed Westwick, Lea Thompson, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Donovan, and Stephen Root. Expectations: Clint Eastwood and Leonard DiCaprio being a part of J. Edar automatically makes it an Oscar contender. Eastwood is a fantastic director, but he is not immune to films that do not entirely work (his last two, Invictus and Hereafter, were not great). But, DiCaprio has a very strong record with his recent projects (his last three were Revolutionary Road, Shutter Island and Inception – all receiving a review of 8 or better from me). More than likely, this will be good. Trailer: Here. Review.

The Descendants (Alexander Payne) – Dramedy – Nov 18 [limited]
Summary: The film is about Matt King. After the death of his wife in a boating accident, he tries to reconnect with his two daughters. Filmmakers: Writer-director Alexander Payne is one of the best at making dramedies because his characters are well drawn and typically sad (specifically his protagonists), and yet his dialog and situations he places them in are often very funny (his masterwork is probably Sideways). He is working with frequent collaborators cinematographer Phedon Papamichael (who did maybe the best work of his career to date on The Ides of March) and production designer Jane Ann Stewart. Cast: George Clooney stars with Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, Shailene Woodley, Beau Bridges, Robert Forster, and Rob Huebel in support. Expectations: This is another Oscar contender (probably picture, screenplay and actor), due to its acclaim from critics based on its festival screenings. I generally really like Payne’s work, and this looks to be no different – complex characters, moving drama and very funny. Trailer: Here. Review.

A Dangerous Method (David Cronenberg) – Drama – Nov 23
Summary: The film is about the relationship between Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and a patient Sabina Spielrein, and the birth of psychoanalysis. Filmmakers: Director David Cronenberg is known for his graphic style (both in the way he shoots violence and the mental conditions of his characters, who are often pushed to their limits). He is a beloved indie director with films like Eastern Promises, A History of Violence and The Fly. He is working with frequent collaborators composer Howard Shore, cinematographer Peter Suschitzky and production designer James McAteer (who has worked many times with Cronenberg as an art director, however this is his first major feature as production designer). Cast: The film stars Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley. Vincent Cassel and Sarah Gadon have supporting roles, making for an overall excellent group. Expectations: A Dangerous Method has played very well for critics during its festival run with some believing it is an Oscar contender in a few of the major categories come 2012 (picture, directing and acting). I am looking forward to it simply because it is a modern auteur director and a fantastic cast (it is one of my top five most anticipated films yet to come out in 2011 – the others being Tinker Tailor Solider Spy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and The Muppets). Trailer: Here. Review.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

At the Movies – November 2011 – Part 2: Hollywood Films


Immortals (Tarsem Singh) – Fantasty – Nov 11
Summary: The film is about Theseus, a mortal chosen by Zeus to lead the fight against King Hyperion and thereby save humanity. Filmmakers: Indian filmmaker Tarsen Singh is directing. He is known for his highly stylized visuals, (somewhat) avant-garde narrative style and elaborate costumes and use of color (he previously made The Cell and The Fall). Working on the film with him are composer Trevor Morris (The Tudors), cinematographer Brendan Galvin (Veronica Guerin) and production designer Tom Foden (who also designed on The Cell). Cast: The film stars Henry Cavill (the new Man of Steel) and has a solid supporting group, including: Luke Evans, Kellan Lutz, Mickey Rourke, Isabel Lucas, John Hurt, Freida Pinto, and Stephen Dorff. Expectations: With Tarsen directing, it should at the very least be an interesting visual experience (and we can all hope better than last year’s Clash of the Titans remake). If I had to guess, I have a feeling this will be high on art and style but low on narrative and character (a bit like Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, but more entertaining). Trailer: Here.

Summary: The fourth film in the series is about Edward and Bella’s wedding and her unexpected pregnancy. They now face danger from both the Quileute and the Volturi who fear the unborn child and what it may become (and other drama and sighing looks). Filmmakers: The franchise continues to look for a director that can translate the source material to the silver screen and actually make a good narrative film (something that has so far eluded it; what surprises me more is that fantastic TV writer Melissa Rosenberg, who is a principle writer on Dexter, has scripted all the films, and yet they are all dull and un-engaging). Now, director Bill Condon gives it a shot. He became a sought-after director in Hollywood due to his critically acclaimed indie hits Gods and Monsters and Kinsey, but most will know him as the director of (the overrated) Dreamgirls. He has a great crew with the Coen Brothers’ composer Carter Burwell, Guillermo del Toro’s cinematographer Guillermo Navarro and his production designer Richard Sherman. Cast: All the regular cast members are back. New to the series are Noel Fisher, Wendell Pierce, Maggie Grace, and Lee Pace, which are all great additions. Expectations: So far the films have been bad (Twilight), bad (New Moon) and awful (Eclipse), and this from a genre that has made a number of excellent romance vampire narratives (like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries, which is essentially the same as Twilight for the most part) – maybe Bill Condon can make the series’ first compelling film (but probably not), as there is certainly enough talent behind and in front of the camera. Trailer: Here.

Hugo (Martin Scorsese) – Mystery – Nov 23
Summary: The film is about an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station in 1930s’ Paris, after his father dies. When he discovers a clue to the broken automaton that his father was working on, he embarks on an adventure to discover its secrets. Filmmakers: The film is best known as not only director Martin Scorsese’s first kid’s movie but also his first 3D film. Additionally to directing, he is also producing along with Johnny Depp (who also plays a small role). He is working with a really great group including composer Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings), cinematographer Robert Richardson (who has shot four films for Scorsese previously) and production designer Dante Ferretti (who has collaborated with Scorsese on six of his films). Cast: The film has a very strong group of actors with Asa Butterfield starring and Chloe Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law, Michael Pitt, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee, Helen McCroy, Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone, Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Griffiths, and Johnny Depp in support. Expectations: Initially, I was very excited for this film (it was among my most anticipated for 2011) – it is a Martin Scorsese film after all – but then I saw its first trailer and all that anticipation faded almost instantly. The film looks too much like a kid’s movie, but not in a Pixar ‘it will still work for all ages’ sort of a way but the in a negative Mr. Popper’s Penguins ‘only kids are going to like this’ way. I still hold out hope due to the cast and filmmakers, but again the trailer is expectation crushing (not to mention the utter terribleness of the music in it) – it just does not look good. I hope I am wrong. Trailer: Here. Review.


Summary: Harold and Kumar are back for their third adventure, and not only is it Christmas themed it is in 3D!!!!! Filmmakers: Director Todd Strauss-Schulson has made a few spoofs and funny shorts, but this is his first big project. He is working with a decent crew featuring composer William Ross (The Game of Their Lives), cinematographer Michael Barrett (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) and production designer Rusty Smith (Austin Powers). Cast: NPH, Kal Penn and John Cho are all back, and a few of their friends. Danneel Ackles, Danny Trejo, Elias Koteas, Patton Oswalt, and Thomas Lennon feature in supporting performances. Expectations: The first in the series was very funny, but the second was not that great – this will probably be closer to the second in terms of overall quality. I mean, it already seems like a ploy to capitalize on 3D revenues. That said, it will still have a few great laughs and is probably worth checking out for fans of the series. Trailer: Here.

Tower Heist (Brett Ratner) – Action/Crime – Nov 4
Summary: The film is about the hard-working employees of a high luxury high-rise residential building in Manhattan who plan to steal a fraudulent wealthy business man’s nest egg, after they fall victim to his Ponzi scheme. Filmmakers: Director Brett Ratner is at the helm (which means that the film will be entertaining, but not particularly good) and is probably a good fit for the film – it being an action comedy like his Rush Hour series. He is working with comedy composer Christophe Beck (The Hangover Part II), wonderful cinematographer Dante Spinotti (Heat) and production designer Kristi Zea (The Departed). Cast: The film stars Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy (who is also producing), and features supporting work from Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Tea Leoni, Gabourey Sidibe, Michael Pena, Alan Alda, and Judd Hirsch. Expectations: With Brett Ratner (the Hollywood hack) directing, I do not have high hopes for this, but as stated above it will probably be entertaining. Stiller and Murphy should provide some good comedic moments (we can hope) and the supporting cast is good. For me, this is a rental, but fans of mindless action comedies will probably enjoy this enough to see it in theatres. Trailer: Here.

Jack and Jill (Dennis Dugan) – Comedy – Nov 11
Summary: The film is about Jack, a family man, and his identical twin sister Jill who is coming to visit for the Holidays. Can Jack survive his most dreaded time of the year and the antics of his needy and passive-aggressive sister (and do we care)? Filmmakers: Director Dennis Dugan collaborates with Adam Sandler (star and producer) for their eighth film together. Composer Rupert Gregson-Williams and production designer Perry Andelin Blake are also frequent collaborators on Happy Madison films.  New to the team is very good cinematographer Dean Cundey (Jurassic Park). Cast: The film stars Sandler playing both Jack and Jill, and Al Pacino, Katie Holmes, Allen Covert, Dana Carvey, and Tim Meadows feature in support. Expectations: To some degree, it seems as if Sandler is making worse and worse films just to see if people will still go to see them (I mean what else can you ascertain from this film’s trailer?). And yet, fans of his, like me, still find him funny – now just think what would happen if he made a good comedy for once. Trailer: Here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

At the Movies – November 2011 – Part 1: Independent Films

Art-House Dramas:

My Week with Marilyn (Simon Curtis) – Drama – Nov 23 [limited]
Summary: The film is about Colin Clark, an employee of Laurence Olivier’s who is tasked with chaperoning his boss’s co-star Marilyn Monroe during her time in England shooting a film with Olivier. Filmmakers:  Director Simon Curtis makes his feature film debut; however he has made a number of TV movies and miniseries, including the very well received period piece Cranford. He is working with a good group that also has a strong background in period work with composer Conrad Pope (who is scoring his first major release), cinematographer Ben Smithard (The Damned United) and production designer Donal Woods (Downton Abbey). Cast: The film features an excellent cast with Michelle Williams co-starring with Eddie Redmayne and Kenneth Branagh. Emma Watson, Dominic Cooper, Julia Ormond, Dougray Scott, Toby Jones, Judi Dench, and Derek Jacobi make up the supporting players. Expectations: The film will likely be best known for its brilliant performance from Michelle Williams, which is currently the frontrunner for Best Actress at the 2012 Oscars, but the film itself is also playing well for critics. There have not been too many good feature films exploring Hollywood’s biggest stars of the past (really Chaplin is the only one that comes to mind), but if this film does well come awards season that might change. Trailer: Here. Review.

The Son of No One (Dito Montiel) – Crime – Nov 4
Summary: The film is about a young cop who is assigned to a precinct in the neighborhood where he grew up, but when an old secret comes to light it threatens his life and his family. Filmmakers: Writer-director Dito Montiel has made two previous films: Fighting (which was poorly received) and A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (moderately received, but I disliked it quite a bit). He is working with composers Jonathan Elias and David Wittman (who both worked with Montiel before), very good cinematographer Benoit Delhomme (The Proposition) and production designer Beth Mickle (Drive). Cast: The film stars Channing Tatum and features supporting work from Al Pacino, Juliette Binoche, Ray Liotta, Katie Holmes, James Ransone, and Tracy Morgan. Expectations: It looks like an okay crime drama/thriller, but really the subject matter is very tired and overdone and Montiel is not among the elite directors who can revitalize narratives that have been done over and over. Thus, this one is probably something to skip unless you really like the genre. That said, it is receiving decent critic reviews (mixed, but more on the positive side). Trailer: Here.

Melancholia (Lars von Trier) – Drama – Nov 11 [LA/NYC]
Summary: The film is about two sisters, Justine and Claire, who react differently when a mysterious planet threatens to collide into the Earth. Filmmakers: Writer-director Lars von Trier is back for his tenth feature film (I recommend seeing his film Dogville as well). He is working with cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro (whose work on the film is brilliant and possibly the best of 2011) and production designer Jette Lehmann (Flame and Citron). Cast: The film stars Kirsten Dunst (who gives the best performance of her career, and one that should have award season implications) and Charlotte Gainsbourg, while featuring supporting work from Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt, Alexander Skarsgard, Stellan Skarsgard, Brady Corbet, and Udo Kier. Expectations: Having already seen this while in Europe over the summer, I can say that it is a fantastic character piece with wonderful performances and beautiful aesthetics. It was an official selection at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival (up for the Palme d’Or) and Kirsten Dunst won the Festival’s Best Actress prize. It is a must-see for fans of interesting unique films and character studies. Trailer: Here. Review.

The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius) – Romance – Nov 23
Summary: The film is about silent movie star George Valentin, who wonders if he will still have a place among the stars of Hollywood with the arrival of talking pictures. He also meets a young dancer, Peppy Miller, who is looking for her big break. Filmmakers: French writer-director Michel Hazanavicius has made a few features prior, but The Artist is his first to see a major release in the States. He is working with composer Ludovic Bource and cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman (both of whom have worked with him before), as well as production designer Laurence Bennett (The Next Three Days). Cast: The film stars Jean Dujardin and co-stars Berenice Bejo with John Goodman, Missi Pyle, Malcolm McDowell, James Cromwell, and Penelope Ann Miller is support. Expectations: Much like Melancholia, The Artist was an official selection at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and Jean Dujardin took home the Festival’s Best Actor prize. He is also among the favorites to receive an Oscar nod in the category come 2012. For fans of the silent movie era and its films, this is an absolute must-see as it fits the style and tone of the time seemingly perfectly. Trailer: Here. Review.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Movie of the Week – The Philadelphia Story

This week’s movie is The Philadelphia Story (1940).

The comedy is about Tracy Lord, the eldest daughter in a Philadelphia society family, who is planning to marry a commoner George Kittredge, but her ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven has other plans as he crashes the wedding the day before with gossip news-writer (who is really a struggling novelist) Macaulay Conner and photographer Elizabeth Imbrie. The film is directed by auteur George Cukor (who also made Holiday, The Woman, Gone with the Wind, and My Fair Lady), and features work from composer Franz Waxman, cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg and art director Cedric Gibbons. The film has one of the great classic Hollywood casts with Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart (for which he won an Oscar) starring. Ruth Hussey, John Howard and especially Virginia Weidler are great in support. Grant, Hepburn and Stewart all play off each other very well and the quick dialog is fantastic. It is the only film that Stewart made with either Hepburn or Grant and one of four that Hepburn made with Grant. It is a must-see for fans of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Check out the trailer.

Available on DVD and Streaming

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Roger Deakins – Movies Spotlight – October 2011

Roger Deakins is one of the best working cinematographers right now (and among the best in cinema history). He is best known for his work with the Coen Brothers. This month, he has a new film coming out entitled In Time – directed by Andrew Niccol. It is a sci-fi thriller about a society in which people stop aging at twenty-five, and must work for more time (here is the trailer).

Early Career:

Growing up, Deakins loved painting, which informed his decision to enroll at the Bath School of Art and Design to study graphic design. At school, he discovered his love of photography, leading him to make a photographic documentary of his hometown (Torquary, Devon, England). He then transferred to the National Film and Television School in England. He worked on a number of documentaries after graduating. In the early 1980s he also tried his hand at music videos both as a director and cinematographer. His work includes Carl Perkins’ Blue Suede Shoes and the concert film Van Morrison in Ireland. Building off his music video work, he began to get jobs shooting feature films. His first couple of note are Alex Cox’s Sid and Nancy and Michael Radford’s 1984. In 1989 he came to America, shooting his first three American films: Mountains of the Moon, Air America and The Long Walk Home. Then he was sent the script for the Coen Brothers’ fourth film and a fantastic cinematic partnership was formed.

Collaborations with the Coen Brothers:

Having seen Deakins’s work on the films Stormy Monday, Sid and Nancy and Pascali’s Island, the Coen Brothers (Joel and Ethan) sent him the script to their new film, Barton Fink, and invited him to join the project. Even though his agent advised against it, he met with the brothers and decided to work with them. It ended up winning the 1991 Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Next, he shot The Hudsucker Proxy for them. It has brilliant cinematography, being recognized by both the London Critics Circle Film Awards and British Society of Cinematographers. Fargo became the Coen Brothers’ first commercial hit (through their first six films) in 1996. Deakins received his second Oscar nomination for his fantastic work shooting the frigid landscape. The Big Lebowski came next (my personal favorite of the Coen Brothers’ films). Deakins got his fourth and fifth Oscar nominations for his work on the next two Coen Brothers’ films: O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Man Who Wasn’t There (which might be the most underrated work of his career – he won the 2002 AFI Cinematographer of the Year Award for it). The brothers then went through an artistically slow phase with Intolerable Cruelty and (their remake of) The Ladykillers. In 2007 they won their first Best Picture Oscar for No Country for Old Men and Deakins his sixth nomination. While not as flashy as some of the previous films, A Serious Man features excellent work from Deakins – but, his latest collaboration with the Coen Brothers True Grit features phenomenal work, collecting his ninth nomination (among my favorite cinematography of 2010). All in all, Deakins has shot eleven of their fifteen films.

Other Feature Films:

In addition to Deakins formidable body of work with the Coen Brothers, he has shot a number of fantastic films, beginning with Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption garnering him his first Oscar nomination. Andy emerging from the sewage drain into the rain is one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history, and beautifully shot. Having worked with Tim Robbins as an actor on The Shawshank Redemption and The Hudsucker Proxy, Robbins hired Deakins to shot his second feature Dead Man Walking. Next he received his third Oscar nomination for his work on Martin Scorsese’s Kundun. He then shot Norman Jewison’s biography of boxer Rubin Carter The Hurricane, and in 2001 he shot his first Best Picture winner for Ron Howard A Beautiful Mind. House of Sand and Fog is sort of a forgotten film from 2003, but Deakins’s work on the film is quite good. He then shot Jarhead working for Sam Mendes for the first time (for Mendes’s first two films he had worked with cinematography legend Conrad Hall). He next shot Paul Haggis’s follow-up to Crash (in that it was his next film) In the Valley of Elah. He also shot Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford in 2007, receiving his seventh nomination. While it did not win the Oscar, it is one of the ten best shot films of the decade – absolutely magnificent (the other nine are: Amelie, The New World, Children of Men, Road to Perdition, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and City of God). He next shot John Patrick Shanley’s adaptation of his own play Doubt. Deakins got his eighth nomination (sharing it with Chris Menges) for Stephen Daldry’s The Reader and he also shot his second film with Mendes Revolutionary Road that year (2008). He also served as a visual consultant on the animated films How to Train Your Dragon, WALL-E and Rango.


Up next for Deakins is his third collaboration with Sam Mendes, shooting the twenty-third James Bond film (currently untitled). It will be his first major action film (though he has worked on Hollywood films before, as he shot Courage Under Fire and The Village). While not formally attached, he will likely be shooting the new Coean Brothers’ film Inside Llewyn Davis, due in 2013.

Career Highlights:

1)      Barton Fink (1991) – (DVD, Streaming)
2)      The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)* – (DVD, Streaming)
3)      The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
4)      Dead Man Walking (1995) – (Blu-ray, DVD)
5)      Fargo (1996) – (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
6)      The Big Lebowski (1998) – (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
7)      O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) – (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
8)      The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)* – (DVD, Streaming)
9)      A Beautiful Mind (2001) – (Blu-ray, DVD)
10)   House of Sand and Fog (2003) – (DVD)
11)   No Country for Old Men (2007)* – (Blu-ray, DVD)
12)   The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)* – (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
13)   Doubt (2008) – (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
14)   The Reader (2008) – (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
15)   Revolutionary Road (2008) – (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
16)   A Serious Man (2009) – (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
17)   True Grit (2010)* – (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
*Editor’s picks

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

TV Series of the Month – Angel

This month’s TV series is Angel (1999-2004).

The fantasy drama series, spun off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is about Angel, a vampire with a soul, who relocates to Los Angeles to open a supernatural detective agency (of sorts) to help people in need. Co-creators Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt have a fantastic TV reputation (Whedon having made Buffy, Firefly, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and Dollhouse; and Greenwalt having worked on The Wonder Years, The X-Files, Buffy, Eureka, Moonlight, and the new series Grimm). The cast is one of my favorites in TV. It stars David Boreanaz, and co-stars Alexis Denisof, J. August Richards, Charisma Carpenter, Andy Hallett, Amy Acker, Vincent Kartheiser, James Marsters, Mercedes McNab, and Glenn Quinn. The series regulars, made up by these actors over the five seasons, created possibly my favorite characters on TV of all-time (Winifred ‘Fred’ Burkle or Wesley Wyndam-Pryce anyone?). The show also had wonderful supporting characters played by Stephanie Romanov, Christian Kane, Julie Benz, Elisabeth Rohm, Daniel Dae Kim, Keith Szarabajka, Sarah Thompson, Juliet Landau, and Eliza Dushku among others. The writing and production staff was also one of TV’s best – here is a few highlights: Jane Espenson (Battlestar Galactica), Drew Goddard (Lost), Ben Edlund (Supernatural), Shawn Ryan (The Shield), Steven DeKnight (Spartacus: Blood and Sand), and David Fury (24). Angel is great because of its characters and Whedon’s ability to mix comedy, drama, action, fantasy and pretty much any other genre together perfectly. It is among my ten favorite shows, and I highly recommend it. Check out the trailer.

Available on DVD and Streaming

Monday, October 17, 2011

Movie of the Week – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

This week’s movie is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).

The film is the third in the series and is about Indy’s quest to find the Holy Grail. Steven Spielberg returns as director (having done all four in the series), bringing with him his fantastic crew including: composer John Williams (delivering possibly my favorite of all his iconic scores), cinematographer Douglas Slocombe and production designer Elliot Scott (it was the last film both Slocombe and Scott worked on). George Lucas produced and came up with the story, but really the film is amazing thanks to Spielberg’s Hollywood-style auteur directing and the phenomenal cast, who bring both good performances and characters to the screen but also a lot of fun (as this is maybe the funniest of the franchise). The film stars Harrison Ford and features supporting work from Sean Connery, Denholm Elliot, Alison Doody, John Rhys-Davies, Julian Glover, and River Phoenix. While Raiders of the Lost Ark is universally regarded as the best in the series, Last Crusade is my favorite. Both films share many fantastic scenes and sequences, great jokes and Indy fighting against Nazis, but Last Crusade has Connery. His scenes playing against Ford and their chemistry are what make this film all the more special. I recommend this film (and the whole initial trilogy) to all movie-lovers. Check out the trailer.

Available on DVD and Trilogy Box Set