Monthly Archives: July 2011

Comic-Con Round-Up: Spider-Man Amazes, Del Toro’s Best Effing Robots & Monsters, & Coppola Edits Film Live

Movie Buffs, Comic Book Nerds, and Dorks in general can find plenty to love every July in San Diego during its annual Comic-Con. I haven’t yet paid much attention to the news that stems from this event, as most of it didn’t concern my particular tastes. That is, until this year, when major announcements were made by Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo del Toro, and the folks behind the new Spider-Man movie. All in all, quite exciting. Continue reading

DVD Tuesday: “Life During Wartime” a humanistic counterpoint to “Happiness”

Todd Solondz his a rich history of making polarizing films.  He has given us some of the most detestable characters ever seen on screen, some of the most queasy and uneasy films to watch, and he consistently reminds us of our deepest failings.  He is absolutely no fun, but his newest film, Life During Wartime, strikes an odd chord. It’s certainly his most heartfelt, melancholic film to date, perhaps most of all because it follows the characters from his pitch-black comedy Happiness, 10 years down the line, just to see how they’ve changed. It is a beautiful and moving film – if you can stand to watch it. Continue reading

Captain America more than just star-spangled

Superhero Summer is coming to a close, with Thor attaining mild success (not nearly the reaction Iron Man received) and The Green Lantern struggling to not only earn back its massive production budget (some estimates reach $300 million), but avoid committing suicide after critical shaming.  Captain America: The First Avenger is the season closer and though it may not be as strong as this summer’s X-Men:First Class, it’s about as satisfying as The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man: a fun romp with a decently developed hero that doesn’t insult your gray matter.

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Super 8 and the way we remember

Titles have always interested me. Some are succinct and convey the basic idea of the film immediately (Se7en, Another Earth), while others manage to almost lazily describe some basic plot device or aspect of the film (Horrible Bosses, Larry Crowne). The truly astounding titles are few and far between (Adaptation., There Will Be Blood), and their power only comes from being coupled with a suitably brilliant film. But the titles I like most of all, the ones that crop up all the time, are the microcosmic ones. They aren’t particularly witty, but they do involve a deft sleight of hand, as if the goal is to make you believe you already know what the title means. Inglorious Basterds, Rebel Without a Cause, and many other classics fit into this mold, but so does the recent summer blockbuster Super 8. Earlier this year, we reviewed Super 8, finding it to be one of the very best movies to come out this summer. It is certainly that, in spite of the criticisms it has garnered for its fantastical second half. But what’s also interesting is how its title connects to our memories and the process of making them.

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Three Must See Documentaries: Winter Soldier, Lake of Fire, S&man

Within the U.S. at least, documentaries tend to live within two different frameworks: the first is the editorial harpings of Michael Moore. The second is Oscar-nominated documentaries that are either too depressing or too under-funded by distributor advertising to gain an audience.  Fortunately, things are changing:  last year three stunning documentaries managed to get serious attention while also stepping out of the box (Catfish, I’m Still Here, Exit Through the Gift Shop).  Also, the rise of Netflix Instant has put a plethora of documentaries at the finger tips of millions of people who might not have otherwise even seen the DVD cover of these films (2 of the 3 films on this list were titles I found at random on Netflix).  So here are three documentaries that will make you re-think your assumptions about documentaries. Continue reading

The End of an Era: Deathly Hallows Pt 2 sets new bar for fantasy

This weekend marks the last hurrah for the Harry Potter film franchise. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (book) was released in 1997, Pottermania fully hit the U.S. in 2000 with the release of Goblet of Fire,* the film franchise began in 2001, and the final book was released almost exactly four years ago.  Suffice it to say – we have spent a long time inhabiting the wizarding world of J.K. Rowling in one form or another.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 has sold an unholy number of tickets for the midnight premiere, with regular reports of sold out screenings a week in advance.  Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 will surely go out with a bang financially.  What’s so surprising is how it positions itself as one of the best fantasy films ever made – better even than any of the Lord of the Rings films. Continue reading

Tetro and Youth Without Youth – Twin masterpieces from a once great director

I love Apocalypse Now. It is one of my very favorite films ever made. I love all three entries in the Godfather Trilogy, although I naturally prefer the first two to the third. I think The Conversation is a master class in post-Hitchcock tension, only rivalled by Brian DePalma’s output in the early 80’s. And yet somehow, every time someone mentions Francis Ford Coppola, director of all four, as one of the greatest directors ever to make a film, I have a small spasm, just this side of a gag reflex. Coppola made four of the greatest films ever, yes, but his work since then has largely left me cold, or worse, provoked loathing. That is, until his most recent films, following a break beginning in 1997, when after he finished The Rainmaker Coppola decided to focus on his family, and perhaps also his wine. In 2007 he returned to the big screen with a self-financed Youth Without Youth and then again in 2009 with Tetro. Both are stunning achievements and place him back amongst the cream of this generation, a place he hasn’t been in over 25 years. Continue reading

DVD Monday: The Lincoln Lawyer – Legal thriller par excellence

Let me make this very clear: I do not like Matthew McConaughey. I can count on one hand the movies I can stand to watch him in (the stoner classic Dazed and Confused and the underrated psychological thriller Frailty rank among them), but most of the time he plays the same smug, smarmy guy that I wish I saw less of in the world. So when I heard about The Lincoln Lawyer a few months back, it didn’t take me long to deign not to see it. Boy, was that a bad decision. Now that it is being released on DVD, I can see it for what it is-the best legal thriller to come out in far too long, the best performance McConaughey has ever given, and a story that leaves you guessing until the final reveal.  It may not win Oscars, it may not be considered an altogether serious film, but it is damn good. Continue reading

Five DVD labels who consistently push good films

When you walk into a videostore or check up on your Netflix queue, it’s generally a crapshoot finding new movies you haven’t heard much about. Here at The Filmsmith, we’ve made a habit of letting you in on some of the underground releases every week, movies you might not have heard of otherwise. But we typically can only get to one a week, and there are dozens of others making their way to home video, some for the first time. Here’s a list of a few DVD companies who have consistently put out good films – to such a degree that if you see something released by them, you can bet it’s probably top notch stuff. Continue reading

Troll Hunter reminds you to fear bridges

Three wannabe journalism students follow a man in a ghille suit into the woods to find out what’s been killing local hikers in the mountains of Norway.  It’s dark, we’re tethered to the first-person POV of the cameraman, and various flashes of light blast in the darkness, followed by faraway growls.  The woods come alive with the crashing footsteps of something ahead.  It’s the man in the ghille suit, running quickly away from the battle, stopping briefly to announce to his tag-a-longs: “TROLLS!”  It’s a ludicrous moment, but taps into the simultaneous display of comedy and anxiety in Troll Hunter, one of the best genre films of the year. Continue reading