skip navigation

Movie News - Our extensive online Hollywood film and classic DVD news page.

  1. Top News Stories

    •  
    • The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America

    • By John F. Kasson

      Her image appeared in periodicals and advertisements roughly twenty times daily; she rivaled FDR as the most photographed person in the world. For four consecutive years, Shirley Temple was the world's box-office champion. By early 1935 her mail was reported as four thousand letters a week, and hers was the second-most popular girl's name in the country.

      Her portrait brightened the homes of countless admirers: from a black laborer's cabin in South Carolina and young Andy Warhol's house in Pittsburgh to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's recreation room in Washington, DC, and gangster "Bumpy" Johnson's Harlem apartment. Her movies were box-office bonanzas and children asked Santa for Shirley Temple dolls for Christmas.

      What distinguished Shirley Temple from every other Hollywood star of that era--and everyone since--was how brilliantly she shone. Amid the deprivation and despair of the Great Depression, Shirley Temple radiated optimism and plucky good cheer that lifted the spirits of millions and shaped their collective character for generations to come.

      Through her movies and personal appearances, Temple became the ambassador of optimism, thrift, and resilience to a public struggling to stay afloat through the economic devastation that surrounded them. Her seemingly inexhaustible good cheer was contagious and her movies proved to be just the medicine Americans needed during an especially anxious decade.

      Tap-dancing across racial boundaries with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, foiling villains, and mending the hearts and troubles of the deserving, Shirley Temple personified the hopes and dreams of Americans. To do so, she worked virtually every day of her childhood, transforming her own family as well as the lives of her fans.

      Kasson draws upon scripts, fan magazines and reviews, as well as personal memoirs and oral histories. These materials demonstrate the depth of Temple's appeal and the power of Hollywood in the era of the dream factory, when people of all ages found comfort in the movies of a small child who, against all odds, championed the idea of never losing hope.

      John F. Kasson is a professor of history and American studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the author of Amusing the Million, among many other seminal works of cultural history. He lives in Chapel Hill.

    • Comment
      share:
  1. New Books

    •  
    • My First Time in Hollywood: Stories from the Pioneers, Dreamers and Misfits Who Made the Movies

    • By Cari Beauchamp

      Film Historian and author Cari Beauchamp has assembled a terrific line-up of Hollywood legends for her latest book, My First Time in Hollywood. Utilizing a wide array of archives, she has traced back to the beginning days of Hollywood and the siren call that brought so many people westward to find their fame and fortune in the movies.

      Actors, directors, screenwriters, cinematographers and editors--half of them women--recall their initial impressions of Hollywood, their struggle to find work and the love they had for making movies that kept them going. From Herbert Marshall to Noel Coward, she covers the first twenty years of the western migration that brought the cinematic pioneers to the sleepy little sun-kissed community that would become internationally known as Hollywood.

      Throughout the book, legends such as Mary Pickford, Harold Lloyd, Lillian Gish, Myrna Loy, Cecil B. DeMille and many others talk about what inspired them to come west and their first impressions of the dusty roads and orange groves that dominated the landscape of the future home to the dream factories.

      Drawn from letters, speeches, oral histories, memoirs, and autobiographies-and with over sixty vintage photographs and illustrations, each story is intimate and unique but all speak to our universal need to follow our passions and be part of a community that feeds the soul.

      Cari Beauchamp is the award-winning author of Without Lying Down: Francis Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood;, Joseph Kennedy Presents, Adventures of Hollywood Secretary, and other books on Hollywood history. She has written and produced documentaries, writes for Vanity Fair and is the only person to be twice named as an Academy of Motion Picture, Arts and Sciences scholar.

    • More >
    •  
    •  
    • Madeline Kahn: Being the Music, A Life

    • By William V. Madison

      Madeline Kahn was one of the brightest comedic stars of her generation. Beginning with her scene-stealing (and Oscar-nominated) roles as Trixie Delight in Paper Moon and her wonderful homage to Marlene Dietrich in Blazing Saddles, Kahn lit up the screen with her hilarious portrayals and witty sense of timing.

      After her break-through role in Paper Moon, she became part of the Mel Brooks stock company, co-starring in Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and High Anxiety. She starred on Broadway as well as television, enjoying much success along the way.

      In private, though, she was as reserved and refined as her characters were bold and bawdy. Almost a Method actor in her approach, she took her work seriously. When crew members and audiences laughed, she asked why--as if they were laughing at her--and all her life she remained unsure of her gifts.

      The book explores her film career, from her well-known roles to her underappreciated and often overlooked performances in films like Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother and Judy Berlin. Author William V. Madison also focuses on her Broadway career where she found great success and remarkably bad luck in equal doses, culminating in a disastrous turn in On the Twentieth Century that left her theater reputation in tatters. It took her fifteen years and a Tony-winning performance in The Sisters Rosensweig to regain her stature on Broadway.

      Drawing on new interviews with family, friends, and such colleagues as Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnett, Gene Wilder, Harold Prince, and Eileen Brennan, as well as archival press and private writings, Madison uncovers Kahn's lonely childhood and her struggles as a single woman working to provide for her erratic mother. Readers will discover the paramount importance of music in Kahn's life. A talented singer, she entertained offers for operatic engagements long after she was an established Hollywood star, and she treated each script as a score. As Kahn told one friend, her ambition was "to be the music" and she always delivered her best.

      William B. Madison is a former producer at CBS News and a former associate editor of Opera News; he was the lone production assistant on the Broadway musical Rags in 1986. A graduate of Brown University and of Columbia's School of Creative Writing, he is a native Texan currently living in New York City.

    • More >
    •  
    •  
    • In the Company of Legends

    • By Joan Kramer and David Heeley

      In the Company of Legends gives its readers an insider's view of some of Hollywood's most elite and well-known stars of the silver screen. With their captivating behind-the scenes stories of some of the town's most beloved but hard-to-get interviews, Joan Kramer and David Heeley offer a rousing reading adventure.

      They began documenting the lives and careers of many of the stars of the golden age of Hollywood in 1980 with their award-winning profile of Fred Astaire, and they quickly gained a reputation for finding the un-findable, persuading the reluctant and maintaining unique relationships long after the end credits rolled. They revitalized the genre of star biography with their high-quality, definitive portraits and helped turn the genre into a mainstay of modern television programming.

      The roster of stars who sat down for interviews with them includes Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis and Audrey Hepburn, along with many others. The stories of the productions and the personalities involved are amusing, sometimes moving, and some are revealed for the first time.

      Joan Kramer and David Heeley began their long producing partnership WNET before forming their own production company, Top Hat Productions. Their programs have received five Emmy awards, twenty Emmy nominations and national and international honors.

      .

    • More >
    •  
    •  
    • A Fine Romance - New autobiography by Candice Bergen

    • By Candice Bergen

      Candice Bergen has had a varied career that has included being a film actress, an award-winning television star as well as an acclaimed photographer. Her first memoir, Knock Wood covered her early years growing up with her "brother" Charlie McCarthy and breaking into acting. This new memoir details her later life--her marriage to French film director Louis Malle, her success with Murphy Brown, the birth of her daughter, the tragic loss of Malle to cancer and forging a new life from that loss. Throughout the book, Bergen talks frankly about the journey of her life and shares it with a writing style that is honest, down-to-earth and often hilarious.

      As she writes in this memoir, falling in love with Malle changed her life in many ways. The director's huge appetite for life broadened her horizons, and their romance flourished despite the ups and downs of their career choices. But, the heart of the story is in her love for her daughter, Chloe. After years of ambivalence about motherhood, Bergen discovered the overpowering love and bond that can exist between mother and daughter. As Chloe grew up, Bergen found her comic genius in the biggest TV role of the 80s, Murphy Brown, and made headlines as the storyline of the show spilled over into the presidential campaign politics in 1992.

      Fifteen years into their marriage, Malle was diagnosed with cancer, and Bergen is unflinching in describing her and Chloe's despair over his death. But after years of widowhood, she discovered she missed the company of men and was surprised to find love anew with a man very different from Malle. She takes us through the first years of her new marriage and shares the bittersweet journey of watching Chloe leave home and flourish, while finding comedy in being an older actress in Hollywood and the losing struggle with wrinkles and extra pounds.

      Candice Bergen has penned numerous articles, written a play as well as her first memoir, Knock Wood. Her film credits include The Sand Pebbles, Carnal Knowledge, Starting Over (for which she received an Oscar nomination), and Miss Congeniality. On television, she made headlines as the tough-talking broadcast journalist and star of Murphy Brown, for which she won five Emmys and two Golden Globes. She later starred with James Spader and William Shatner in the critically acclaimed series Boston Legal.

    • More >
    •  
  1. DVD Reviews

    •  
    • Point Blank on Blu-ray

    • When documentary filmmaker John Boorman made the leap to feature filmmaking with Catch Us If You Can (aka Having a Wild Weekend, 1965), a low-budget rock-n-roll vehicle for the Dave Clark Five, he transformed the quickie into a surprisingly biting satire of popular culture set to a bouncy soundtrack, displaying a remarkable sophistication and creativity unexpected from such a project. It was enough to land him his first American film, Point Blank, where he revealed an even greater ambition and talent.

      Based on the novel The Hunter by Richard Stark (a pen name for Donald Westlake), Point Blank shuffles the lean, straight-forward story of a gunman named Walker (Lee Marvin), who is double crossed by his partner in crime and returns (seemingly from the dead) for revenge, into a surreal, abstracted crime drama. The plot is faithful to original novel, a hard-boiled piece of crime fiction reimagined for the underworld culture of the sixties, but Boorman and Marvin, who requested the young director and supported his unconventional vision for the film, refract it through a modern lens. Walker's odyssey from Alcatraz in San Francisco to the underworld of Los Angeles is splintered with short, sharp shards of memory that cut through his story, as if reflecting Walker's attempts to put the pieces of cause and effect together in his mind.

      Boorman views L.A. through an alienated lens and edits it more like a European art film than an American crime thriller, but fills it with offbeat, ultra-stylized scenes of violence. It opens on a gunshot that should have killed him and he struggles to put it all together when he wakes up: "Cell. Prison cell. How did I get here?" Marvin is enigmatic, to say the least, as he tracks down his unfaithful, guilt-ridden wife (Sharon Acker), his wife's sister (Angie Dickinson), his old friend turned double-crossing heist partner Mal Reese (John Veron), and finally the syndicate bigwigs, all just to get his due: "I want my 93 grand."

      This vision of urban Los Angeles is alternately crowded and noisy and urban, and austere and empty and dislocated. His footsteps echoing through an empty, anonymous hallway becomes the disembodied beat of his march of revenge. A scatting, screaming R&B singer at a chic night spot called The Film Club is the feral soundtrack of a brutal backstage fight, at once visceral and abstracted in the clutter of 35mm film cans and nightclub supplies. The aftermath of a suicide becomes a psychedelic vision of destruction, which disappears in a cut to the apartment suddenly empty, a ghost house with no evidence of life or death, just transition.

      The dialogue is loaded with references to "a dream" and characters constant remind Walker that he's supposed to be dead. Keenan Wynn adds another level of remove as the devil whispering in Walker's ear, another unreal figure with a carefully concealed agenda who is preternaturally attuned to Walker's movements. More than an informant, he appears from nowhere to provide a name, an address, a piece of information on the trail to the top man in the Organization as Walker's debt keeps getting passed up the chain of command.

      Walker is both an unstoppable sentinel who seems more than flesh and blood and a vulnerable man wounded by betrayal who has armored over his emotions with a mission. Marvin delivers both sides of the character without compromising either. There's a cold fury under his deliberate movements and his eyes betray a moment of regret and sadness when he finds his wife dead by her own hand, but it is all pushed down and kept in check by his single-minded focus. "I just want my money" is his mantra, not a matter of greed but a debt to be settled to balance the scales. Marvin is at once deliberate and relaxed, a veteran criminal soldier alert to everything, which makes his character even more fascinating. He doesn't demand attention on screen, he commands it through confidence and ability and cool focus.

      That alone makes him more admirable than Mal, who is played by John Vernon as an oily, arrogant, amoral rat, selling out anyone and everyone to buy his way back into the Organization. The rest of the members of the cast don't play characters as much as cogs, functionaries in a criminal enterprise as a cutthroat corporation, simply doing their jobs as if Walker was a rival in a hostile takeover. Only Angie Dickinson's Chris has the passion and fury and emotional life of a human being, siding with Walker out of both loyalty and for payback against Mal ("He makes my flesh crawl") and the Organization that has taken over her business and her life. Sharon Acker, who plays Walker's wife, comes off less haunted than simply weak. She barely leaves an impression, which is fitting for her character but fails to offer any sense of tragedy to her story, and she's almost instantly forgotten after she exits the film. It's really the only weak element of the film, which otherwise is strong, confident, and sure from beginning to end.

      Point Blank has been called a modern film noir but it has more in common with Performance, another crime thriller that fractures time, offers enigmatic and ambiguous characters, and equates organized crime with big business. Boorman delivers meticulously executed set pieces that are designed for the wide CinemaScope frame with a sure sense of space and a dispassionate perspective. He emphasizes intelligence over action and presents Walker as total professional, never flustered and always emotionally removed from the situation. And if Walker is an extreme incarnation of the revenge driven noir anti-hero, the modern syndicate has transformed the old school mob into a world of paper jungles and corporate businessmen, an alienating concept to a two-fisted, gun-wielding independent like Walker. "Profit is the only principle," is their motto. Almost 50 years later, it's more modernist than modern, a fascinating time capsule of an era when young directors brought nouvelle vague style to classic genres, and a cryptic crime thriller that turns Marvin into the most enigmatic criminal professional in the movies.

      Boorman creates a hard, austere look for the film and the new Blu-ray delivers a sharp clarity to his vision of Los Angeles as an impersonal modern city. Apart from a few scenes, he strips the frame down to isolated figures in an empty urban landscape under the hard light of the California sun. It's an urban desert and the disc preserves that atmosphere of a ghost city by day and a shadowy underworld at night when the crowds gather on the streets and in the clubs. The impersonal palette of concrete surfaces and blank office interiors in the day gives way to the color of human habitation after dark, which oddly enough has a warmer atmosphere than the harsh light of day.

      Carried over from the earlier DVD release is an audio commentary track with director John Boorman and fellow director Steven Soderbergh, a fan of the film who essentially hosts the commentary. He engages Boorman in conversations about the film's style, the use of color and camera lenses, working with Lee Marvin (who became close friends with Boorman), and making his Hollywood debut with a film that refused to play by the studio rules. Soderbergh's The Limey was clearly indebted to Point Blank in both its theme of revenge and in its fractured storytelling and unconventional use of flashbacks. Taking part in this commentary is like paying tribute to his inspiration.

      Also features the vintage promotional featurette The Rock (in two parts), which looks at shooting the film on location in Alcatraz, and the original trailer.

      by Sean Axmaker

    • More >
    •  
    •  
    • Ravenous on Blu-ray

    • Ravenous (1999) channels the story reminiscent of the Donner Party disaster and the legend of Alferd Packer (the only American ever convicted of cannibalism) into a gruesome survival thriller with a crimson-hued streak of black humor and an elemental hint of the supernatural. The resulting film takes top honors as the definitive frontier cannibal movie. Not that there's a long list to choose from, mind you, but this earns its position with honors, thanks to a gleefully weird and savagely bloodthirsty sensibility.

      Guy Pearce is Captain John Boyd, whose battle cowardice during the Mexican-American war inadvertently results in making him an accidental hero. The ordeal of playing dead under the bleeding corpses of his fellow officers also puts him off meat, as the opening scenes so vividly illustrate. Director Antonia Bird cuts straight to the heart of the situation as she intercuts soldiers devouring bleeding-rare steaks at a military luncheon with the bloody casualties of battle stacked like cordwood: meat is meat, at least as far as this film is concerned. Boyd's commanding officer (John Spencer of The West Wing), who knows that his valor is a fraud, ships him out to the fringes of military reach: a fort in a California mountain pass, which runs with a minimal compliment during the impassable winter months. "This place thrives on tedium," smiles fort commander Colonel Hart (Jeffrey Jones), who takes everything with a bemused indulgence. How else to survive a company made up of a useless drunk second-in-command(Stephen Spinella), a giggling weed-head idiot (David Arquette), a twitchy, mumbling chaplain (Jeremy Davies), and a macho soldier boy (Neal McDonough) who holds the rest of the company in utter contempt?

      The tedium is quickly dispersed when a bedraggled disaster survivor (Robert Carlyle) stumbles into camp. He spins a horrific story of a lost wagon train and an incompetent scout who strands them in the mountains, where as the winter snows traps them and desperation leads to feeding on human flesh. It's a tale right out of the Donner Party until it turns feral, but it's not even close to the real story of Carlyle's wild-eyed survivor. For a starving man, he looks remarkably fit when he doffs his shirt, and other clues suggest that this is no production gaffe. One night, while camping on the trail to his old camp to search for survivors, he's caught licking the bleeding wounds of an injured soldier. You know, tasting his next potential meal.

      That's when the film takes its twist into weird and wild horror, a bizarre plot that doesn't really make much logical sense but sure makes for a wicked mix of psychodrama and visceral body horror. The Native American Wendigo myth is referenced to explain madness, but you could say it's a vampire tale without the supernatural dimension--it turns out human flesh is addictive, and it helps to have a nest of fellow flesh-eaters to keep the diet coming--or call it a particularly gruesome metaphor for manifest destiny. However you label it, it is off-the-charts crazy, an eat-or-be-eaten thriller served very, very rare.

      British director Antonia Bird seems like an odd match for this material. She honed her craft on TV drama and made her reputation with the tough, wrenching dramas Priest and Face, two films with complex characters and socially conscious themes. What they have in common with Ravenous is star Robert Carlyle, who recommended Bird after the film's original director Milcho Manchevski was let go after three weeks and the producer's chosen replacement, Raja Gosnell, was rejected by the cast. Bird (who passed away last year at the relatively young age of 62 after a battle with thyroid cancer) was frustrated by the conditions of the production and the oversight of the producers and she complained that her cut was compromised in post-production. That may explain the awkward pace, jarring turns, and a climax that feels tossed together--an uninspired way to end such a devious film--but she is clearly the architect of the odd, offbeat key of the film's blackly comic tone and surreal atmosphere and Carlyle is her partner in outsized madness. He leads the cast in playing their eccentricities big, though next to Carlyle's juicy performance, Arquette and Davies come off more like actor's studio sketches in twitchy weirdness or fidgety indecision than actual characters. Guy Pearce provides the contrast, creating a character fighting to maintain control and keep his emotions and his reflexive revulsion in check as everyone else lets their freak flag fly. It oddly enough makes him the most intense character on screen. As all that fear and disgust and anxiety just bottles up behind his desperate eyes and increasingly battered body, Pearce shows us the toll this ordeal exacts on him. In this survival drama, he's the one in true survival mode.

      Scream Factory's Blu-ray features a solid new HD transfer that preserves the dynamic contrast between the white-out daylight scenes of snow and the ominous shadows of the deep forest and the dark rough-hewn quarters of the frontier fort. Night doesn't have to fall for the darkness to seep into the image. Given the elemental quality of the imagery--much of the film takes place in the snowbound wilderness, with the Tatra Mountains of Slovakia standing in for California--the transfer has a satisfying level of grain that not only preserves the texture of the film but gives the entire atmosphere an added level of authenticity. These images feel like they were carved into the film.

      The film was previously released on DVD over a decade ago with three separate commentary tracks. Director Antonia Bird and composer Damon Albarn team up for the most informative track, with Bird talking in detail about the physical challenges of the production. Screenwriter Ted Griffin and co-star Jeffrey Jones tend to lapse into silences in their track and actor Robert Carlyle is even more intermittent in his the solo track. Also carried over from the earlier disc is a collection of deleted scenes (many of them in rough-cut form) with optional commentary by Bird and a gallery of stills. New to this edition is a 20-minute interview with Jeffrey Jones, who looks back on the themes of the film.

      by Sean Axmaker

    • More >
    •  
    •  
    • Southern Comfort on Blu-ray

    • A motley crew of Louisiana National Guardsman wade out into the swamps for weekend maneuvers. It's 1973, as the war in Vietnam is grinding away the soul of America and the heart of the military, and this platoon of weekend warriors--a volatile collection of rednecks, hotheads, jokers, and guys who probably signed up to steer clear of the draft--are like fresh recruits going into battle for the first time. They've got the fatigues and the cocky attitude but dubious discipline and training and their machine guns are loaded with blanks as they head into the bayou. To the Cajun swamp folk, the trappers and hunters living on the fringes of society, these men are invaders who trample their camps and steal their boats. And when one of the soldiers lets loose a burst from his weapon, laughing like the class bully after humiliating the new kid, these shadowy swamp dwellers defend themselves, becoming a guerilla strike force waging a war of terror on the utterly unprepared toy soldiers. They don't know that it's just blanks in those guns but it likely wouldn't matter if they did. They've been attacked and they will respond. These city dwellers are out their element and after their commanding officer (Peter Coyote) is gone, the first casualty in the war of attrition, they are out of their depth, flailing around with a panic that dumps their radio, compass, map, and pretty much everything else that was supposed to keep them alive.

      Southern Comfort will never be mistaken for a Nation Guard recruitment tool. Call it an anti-platoon movie. Hill gives the squad the outward accoutrements of a real fighting force, down to the uniforms and weapons, but this is a military unit in name only. Beyond the swaggering banter of the soldiers and self-deprecating comments of Spencer (Keith Carradine), the self-appointed company joker, they have no real training, no experience under fire, and no commitment to one another. These guys are more like barroom buddies playing soldier than a disciplined force.

      There are two voices of restraint in the wilderness, Spencer and new guy Hardin (Powers Booth), a transfer from Texas who doesn't know anyone in the company but sizes up their weaknesses quickly and realizes that they haven't much a chance as long as wild cards like Reece (Fred Ward) and Stuckey (Lewis Smith) go charging through the swamps looking for payback. Casper (Les Lannom) takes command by virtue of an essentially meaningless detail of rank and bumbles around quoting regulations and making speeches, doggedly following the book because he hasn't a clue what to do next. The filmmakers don't make him a figure of ridicule, mind you, just a guy falling back on the only thing he knows. In fact, none of them are necessarily "bad guys," though like any Hill ensemble, it has its share of jerks, bullies, racists, and anger management candidates and the pressure brings out their worst instincts.

      So yes, it's a story of American soldiers in an alien land, lost in an unfamiliar landscape and outmaneuvered by a guerrilla army at home in the jungle. Director / screenwriter Walter Hill and producer / co-screenwriter David Giler insist to this day that Southern Comfort was never intended to be an allegory for Vietnam, simply a survival tale in an overwhelming and unfamiliar environment. It's hard to take them at face value but it is easy to forget the allegory in the heat of the drama. It also shares DNA with Deliverance, another film about city boys with guns who take their sense of ownership and entitlement into the wilderness, threaten the locals, and end up hunted by them. But where John Boorman's primal thriller turns his Appalachian backwoods men into brutal outlaws who take pleasure in stalking the city invaders, Hill and Giler keep their Cajun soldiers hidden, seen as figures in the distance or blurs running behind the trees, ghosts on the fringes of sight. They treat the would-be soldier like wild game, silently shadowing their progress and whipping them into a state of panic to steer them into their traps. And whatever the short-fused guys in the platoon think, this is no cultural conspiracy to wipe out the invaders. Their enemy consists of a handful of isolated hunters who didn't start the war but by God are determined to finish it. The rest of the Cajun folks they meet don't seem to be a part of it, though after a couple of days in the swamps, the paranoia is powerful enough to make every sidelong glance look ominous. Ry Cooder's eerie and haunting score only intensifies the paranoia.

      What ultimately differentiates them from the soldiers of a classical platoon drama is that they haven't bonded under fire and have never had to put their trust in one another. This group unravels and tears itself apart from fear and panic and unfocused rage. And in classic Hill manner, there are no philosophical musings or existential conversations. The closest the film comes to putting its theme into words is from the mantra of a terrified Simms (Franklyn Seales), who finds himself cut off from the group and suddenly aware of just how vulnerable he is. "I'm not supposed to be here," he repeats, as if begging the universe to correct some cosmic planning error. And then he's no longer there.

      While this band of infighting brothers wades blindly through the swamp without a clue as to their bearings or direction, Hill's direction never falters. He has always had a sure hand as a storyteller, keeping his plots uncluttered and letting the details of character, conflict, and the world around them define the story. Southern Comfort limits the world to the middle of the swamp, where we (like the soldiers) are unable to find any point of reference, and observes how the discomfort of the environment and the constant disorientation takes its toll on what little good sense the characters bring with them to the mission. It exacerbates the already dysfunctional dynamics of this platoon of battle virgins and is as deadly on its own as the native hunters who use the environment as a weapon in their arsenal. It's not necessarily skill or even luck that saves the guardsmen who survive the ordeal. In classic Hill fashion, it is a matter of intelligence, awareness, teamwork, and the commitment to do what is necessary to survive. There's no sense of victory in survival, merely relief.

      Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack. Both discs feature the new HD master but the Blu-ray of course features superior clarity and richness of color. Both are clean, strong images while the Blu-ray shows off excellent detail. The Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack puts the mix right up front. A couple of scenes of chaos and confusion overwhelm the dialogue with background sound, which is surely intentional but still seems a little out of balance to my ears.

      New to this release in an original 27-minute featurette with new interviews with actors Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe, Lewis Smith, and Peter Coyote and, on low-resolution video via Skype, director Walter Hill and producer David Giler, who collaborated on the script with Hill. The actors share stories of shooting in the Louisiana swamps in February with wet suits under their uniforms, six weeks of working in the cold and damp, and they remind us that they were all in it together. The crew endured the same conditions so no one had the right to complain. More interesting is the discussion around the themes of the film. Hill and Giler maintain that while they did not intentionally set out to make a Vietnam allegory they were aware that audiences would make that connection, while the actors admit that they knew it was an allegory from the moment they read the script. Keith Carradine's reading is particularly detailed and interesting. Curiously, none of the six participants mention Deliverance.

      Carried over from the old DVD release is a brief collection of outtakes and the original trailer. All of the supplements are featured in both the Blu-ray and DVD discs of the Combo Pack.

      By Sean Axmaker

    • More >
    •  
    •  
    • Tess on Blu-ray

    • Tess (1979), Roman Polanski's film adaptation of Thomas Hardy's 1890 novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles, has in 2014 received a sublime Blu-Ray and DVD release from Criterion. Restored by Pathe under the direct supervision of Polanski himself, the movie looks and sounds magnificent. At first glance, the lushly beautiful Tess is a seemingly unusual work for Polanski, whose films we tend to associate with horror and sex, but this was actually a highly personal project for the master filmmaker. It was his first picture after fleeing the United States in 1977, and also a project that his wife, Sharon Tate, had suggested he make as a vehicle for herself -- just before she was murdered by the Manson gang in 1969. Polanski read the novel after her death and realized it was indeed right up his alley, and he dedicated the eventual film to her with an on-screen inscription.

      Hardy's tale, to which the film is very faithful, is about a poor English girl, Tess, whose father learns he is a distant descendant of a once prominent, rich family, the D'Urbervilles. He sends Tess to the home of a remaining D'Urberville to find employment (or at least a handout), but Tess winds up being seduced by the ne'er-do-well Alec D'Urberville (Leigh Lawson), who becomes obsessed with her. Fleeing Alec, she eventually finds work at a dairy farm and starts a passionate relationship with a young farmer named Angel Clare (Peter Firth). But in this society, the revelation of the sins of her past, even if they were not her fault, could doom Tess to shame, ostracism and worse. Ultimately, Tess is about a woman struggling to make her way in the world, looking for happiness, or at least survival, but finding that a judgmental society, timing and even luck are all working against her.

      Polanski explores this theme vividly, sympathetically and cinematically. Costumes, speech and physical mannerisms of the actors all convince the audience of the time period and of the distinctions among the social classes, and the film's pictorial beauty does much to stress the contrasting cruelty of some of the characters. The movie is not "pretty" for prettiness' sake. Most important, one really feels the isolation of Tess throughout the film, which is at once sprawling and intimate. The plot itself, while important, feels less vital here than the depiction of Tess' emotional experience of the world she is forced to inhabit, and as a result, the long running time feels entirely appropriate and never tedious.

      Tess was shot entirely in France, mostly on locations in Normandy and Brittany, because Polanski worried that if he traveled to England he would be extradited to the United States. Polanski later wrote, "To tell the story at all, it was essential to find the proper setting, a twentieth-century equivalent of Hardy's nineteenth-century Dorset. The only way to convey the rhythm of his epic was to use that setting as an integral part of the film, signaling the passage of time and the change in Tess herself by means of a visible, almost palpable change in seasons. Once our rural locations were chosen, we would have to film throughout the year from early spring, through high summer, to the depths of winter." With such a shooting strategy, filming wound up lasting nine months over 80 separate locations, and Tess became, at $12 million, the most expensive film ever made in France to that point. Freak weather and labor strikes only added to the overall time and expense.

      If Tess is atypical of Polanski, it's in the way that The Age of Innocence (1993) is atypical of director Martin Scorsese. But in fact, both films are completely emblematic of their directors' concerns and are indeed suffused with violence. It's just that the violence is emotional, an undercurrent beneath a pristine surface -- exactly like the societies the films depict.

      That being said, it's hard to shake some of Tess's most exquisitely beautiful imagery, such as the lovely natural light of an outdoor dance, or the riders and dogs on a fox hunt who appear out of a sublime mist, or the face of Nastassia Kinski, who is heart-stoppingly gorgeous (a quality, incidentally, that is vital to the story). Cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth, who had shot such films as Becket (1964) and Cabaret (1972), died a few weeks into production and was replaced by Ghislain Cloquet, who sadly would himself pass away two years later. They shared the Oscar for Best Cinematography. The film also won for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Score.

      Criterion's dual-format release contains one Blu-ray disc and two DVDs, with both formats containing the film and identical extras. And there are plenty, starting with three short documentaries about the film's making (originally included in Columbia's 2004 DVD release), directed by Laurent Bouzereau and totaling 73 minutes in length. Bouzereau expertly interviews key players like Polanski, producers Claude Berri and Timothy Burrill, co-writer John Brownjohn, actors Nastassia Kinski and Leigh Lawson, set decorator Pierre Guffroy, costume designer Anthony Powell, hair and makeup artists, the crew electrician, the assistant editor and others. The artists discuss fascinating details of production, like the challenge of getting the "strawberry seduction" scene between Kinski and Lawson just right (which astonishingly was shot on a rainy day despite looking on-screen like the height of warm summer), the creation of the Stonehenge set outside of Paris, and the design of the costumes to be authentic and truly expressive of character -- beautiful without being decorative. Powell is fascinating as he discusses his approach, and also about the little splotch of blood he put on the hem of Tess' dress at a key point in the story, which Polanski shot for maximum impact.

      Burrill recalls that on location the filmmakers were only able to see the rushes days after shooting, rather than the next day, and not always under the best conditions. But gradually, he says, "we started to see what was happening, the magic that was coming off the screen, and the extraordinary professionalism of Nastassia.... I don't think there was ever one day when she fluffed a line. She was word-perfect, always."

      Second is a 52-minute documentary from 2006 by Daniel Ablin and Serge July entitled Once Upon a Time... Tess. This is also interesting, but it covers much of the same material as the Bouzereau pieces, with many of the same interviewees telling the same stories. It's also not as smoothly edited. But unlike the Bouzereau film, it includes composer Philippe Sarde, and delves more into Polanski's pre-Tess life and career. It also recounts the difficulties in Tess's post-production, particularly concerning the running time. Francis Coppola was brought in by producer Claude Berri to trim the film, which was deemed overlong, but Polanski hated the result, leading to a falling-out between Berri and Polanski and between Polanski and Sarde. Polanski himself eventually trimmed the film by about 20 minutes, resulting in the current running time of 171 minutes.

      Third, there's a 1979 episode of the French TV program Cine Regards, running 48 minutes, that looks at the making of Tess and interviews Polanski during the film's production. The interviews with Polanski are revealing, but the real strengths of the piece are the long, uninterrupted slices of life on the set as Polanski directs and thinks through scenes, conducting his orchestra of crewmembers. These sequences go on long enough to make us feel as if we are there.

      Fourth is a 1979 episode of the British TV program The South Bank Show, 50 minutes in length, in which host Melvyn Bragg interviews Polanski. And Criterion rounds things out with the film's trailer as well as a handsome printed booklet containing a fine essay by Colin MacCabe and crisp, colorful photos from the film, almost all of which feature the entrancing Nastassia Kinski. It's a beautiful package and motion picture, all very highly recommended.

      By Jeremy Arnold

    • More >
    •  
    •  
    • Used Cars on Blu-ray

    • The opening of Used Cars (1980) has the ominous, wind-scoured character of a modern crime film in a desperate southwest town where a Sergio Leone western wouldn't be out of place. The camera cranes down from a high shot over a struggling used car dealership, where a few pathetic beaters line the lot, and slowly glides over to one car with someone is crammed under the dashboard. The only sound is the lonely wind--the kind of strangled, desolate howl you get in dustbowl dramas and desert survival thrillers--and the grunts of the man struggling with the mechanics under the dash. And then we see the odometer turn back, shaving some 40,000 or so miles from the record. The title hits the screen, a brass band jumps in with "Stars and Stripes Forever," and the unidentified mechanic wriggles out to reveal Kurt Russell in a cheap, loud suit making his rounds to mask the sorry condition of the cars on the lot. It turns out that this is a crime movie after all, or at least a film of multiple misdemeanors and bald-faced misrepresentation, and the perpetrators are the good guys.

      The second feature from director Robert Zemeckis and co-writer and producer Bob Gale, Used Cars comes right out of the screen comedy culture of the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the underdogs snubbed their collective noses at authority, propriety, property and privacy laws and anything else that crossed their paths in slobs vs. snobs comedies like Animal House (1978), Caddyshack (1980) and Ghostbusters (1984). Used Cars is raucous and reckless and far more gleefully corrupt than any of its brothers in rebellion, embracing the confidence games and illegal stunts pulled by the skeleton crew that works for Luke Fuchs (Jack Warden), who is the closest thing that the film has to an honest man. The devotion of salesmen Rudy (Russell) and Jeff (Gerrit Graham) and mechanic Jim (Frank McRae) to Luke is really all that separates them from Luke's rapacious brother and across-the-street rival Roy L. Fuchs (Warden again) and his slick sales force. That and the fun they have ripping off the rubes who wander on to their lot.

      The premise of film - two used car outfits at war with one another - was hatched by John Milius, who was one of the executive producers (along with Steven Spielberg), but the script is pure Zemeckis and Gale. The rivals are twin brothers, the Cain and Abel of used car dealers. When impending freeway construction threatens to destroy bad brother Roy's dealership and make the good brother Luke rich, Roy finds a way to speed the demise of Luke's bad heart and Rudy makes good on his promise to keep Roy from taking over the lot. Rudy has his own, more immediate motivation, of course--he's trying to buy his way into the local political machine and he's still a little short on the down payment--but it's also personal. Luke is something of a father figure to the crew, which makes them the mischievous sons who break the rules whenever dad's back is turned. After Luke dies, their antics more outrageous, from secretly burying Luke on the lot (his beloved convertible fittingly serves as his casket) to jamming satellite signals with wild pirate commercials replete with gratuitous nudity and senseless destruction of private property. The plot seems to careen from one comic collision to another but there's a nicely-constructed plan under it all, simple but ingenious enough that you don't actually see how the pieces are laid in place until it all comes together in the ragged spectacle of final act.

      It's not really a satire of American business so much as a wicked lampoon: lie, cheat and steal as the American way, as long as you do it with a sense of fun. Kurt Russell was just breaking out of his clean-cut post-Disney persona when he took on the role and he sinks his teeth into Rudy, turning the brash characters into the epitome of the smiling mercenary selling lemons to suckers with dirty tricks and phony promises. Gerrit Graham is his partner in commercial piracy, unfazed by anything but harbingers of bad luck, notably red. Deborah Harmon is both romantic interest and plot complication as Luke's long lost daughter, who shows up just after dad's death. Jack Warden has a field day playing twin brothers and Frank McRae is hilarious as the giant adrenaline-pumped mechanic. The crotch-grabbing Mexican junk car wholesaler is ubiquitous character actor and future director Alfonso Arau in his first great comic role in an American film (Romancing the Stone and Three Amigos soon followed). But the entire cast is in danger of being upstaged by the adorable dog Toby, who has his own role to play in the sale stunts. This pooch's hilarious performance makes him one of the greatest movie dogs.

      Zemeckis matured into a polished filmmaker and an ambitious storyteller and went on to make more sophisticated, more provocative, and certainly more subtle films, but he never made anything as savagely funny as Used Cars. Its banged-up ingenuity and rough-and-tumble energy and warped mirror reflection of the American Dream as a snatch and grab free-for-all is wickedly funny. Everyone is a crook here and the epilogue even enshrines mendacity as a virtue, at least when it comes to stepping into the used car game.

      Used Cars has a remarkably tidy visual aesthetic for a film about a seedy, shabby culture, with a screen that is uncluttered and flooded with desert sunlight in day scenes and blasted with floodlights as bold as a football stadium night game for the after-dark stunts. The new HD transfer shows a well-preserved print and is sharp and clear. Simply put, it looks superb.

      The commentary track with Zemeckis, Gale, and Russell, carried over from the 2002 DVD reelease, is almost as fun as the movie. "We wanted Jimmy Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life, except he's totally corrupt," is how Zemeckis explains the genesis of Rudy. Kurt Russell laughs back: "So you cast me!" These guys are having a blast laughing their way through their remembrances, but they manage to stay on track and keep the production stories coming. Few commentaries manage to balance the information and entertainment so well.

      There's a four-minute reel of outtakes (apparently taken from surviving video dub; it's all quite hazy), a radio interview with Russell, a car commercial featuring Russell, galleries of art and stills, and not one but two isolated score tracks: along with Patrick Williams' musical score heard in the film is an alternate, unused score by Ernest Gold. We don't quite get it in the context of the film (at least not with dialogue and sound effects) but it's a more conventional, less satirical approach. The accompanying 8-page booklet features another fine essay by Julie Kirgo.

      By Sean Axmaker

    • More >
    •  
  1. Press Release

    •  
    • Dick Dinman and Eddie Muller Salute Noir Classic THE PROWLER

    • DICK DINMAN AND EDDIE MULLER SALUTE "THE PROWLER" : THE PROWLER, which is quite possibly the most shockingly subversive film noir classic ever conceived, has just been released by VCI Entertainment in a spectacular new blu-ray restoration and to celebrate the release of this dauntingly chilling and unseen-for-decades masterpiece producer/host Dick Dinman welcomes back "Czar of Noir" Eddie Muller whose Film Noir Foundation played a significant role in restoring this much requested noir gem to its present sublime condition and both pay tribute to the uncommonly raw and riveting performances of leads Van Heflin and Evelyn Keyes.

      DICK DINMAN AND EDDIE MULLER SALUTE "THE PROWLER" (PART TWO) : In part two of our salute to VCI's blu-ray release of THE PROWLER producer/host Dick Dinman and Eddie Muller discuss the searingly uncompromising contributions of uncredited blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and soon to be blacklisted director Joseph Losey.

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only weekly half hour show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

    • More >
    •  
    •  
    • 3-D Summer at MoMA in New York

    • June 13-July 4, 2015

      On June 10, 1915, the Astor Theater in Times Square presented the first documented public exhibition of three-dimensional motion pictures. In the century since, 3-D filmmaking has gone through at least three boom-and-bust cycles, but the process is still with us and, thanks to the new digital technologies, is in many ways better than ever.

      Perhaps the most fertile of the 3-D fads was that of 1953 to 1955, when an advance in technology (clear polarized lenses replaced the red and green filters of the first 3-D glasses) aligned with the desperate need of the studios to offer spectacles beyond the reach of the movies' new rival, television. Fifty feature films and countless shorts were produced in those years, but just as 3-D was graduating from low-budget exploitation films (such as the notorious Robot Monster) to major studio productions with A-list stars and directors, the market evaporated--not because audiences disliked the new process (as the box office figures demonstrate) but because it was too difficult to keep two projectors in perfect synchronization, as the technology demanded.

      With digital projection, however, those problems have been largely eliminated. The last few years have seen a resurgence of "golden age" 3-D films, remastered from original dual-strip elements for digital presentation. Our centennial celebration begins with the New York digital "re-premiere" of perhaps the most sought-after of the golden age stereoscopic films, John Farrow's 1954 Western Hondo, starring John Wayne and Geraldine Page, presented in a newly scanned DCP courtesy of Gretchen Wayne and Batjac Films. This series also includes a brand-new scan of George Sidney's 1953 MGM musical version of Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate, as restored from the original Ansco Color negative by Ned Price and his associates at Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging; and three presentations of 3-D Rarities, a collection of historically significant and/or plain silly stereoscopic films newly preserved by Bob Furmanek and Greg Kintz of the 3-D Film Archive.

      Organized by Dave Kehr, Adjunct Curator, Department of Film.

      Special thanks to Gretchen Wayne, Ned Price, Bob Furmanek, and Greg Kintz.



      3-D Rarities

      Archivist Bob Furmanek (who brought us The Bubble last year) returns with the world premiere of a new, feature-length, eclectic collection of 3-D films. Included are the earliest surviving stereoscopic film, Thru the Trees: Washington, D.C. (1922); a 1940 promotional film for the Pennsylvania Railroad, Thrills for You; the 1953 stop-motion animation The Adventures of Sam Space; and a 1940 Technicolor 3-D short, New Dimensions (aka Motor Rhythm) produced for the Chrysler Pavilion of the New York World's Fair. Courtesy 3-D Film Archive. 97 min.

      Saturday, June 13, 2015, 4:30 p.m., Theater 2, T2

      Sunday, June 28, 2015, 2:30 p.m., Theater 2, T2

      Tuesday, July 7, 2015, 2:00 p.m., Theater 2, T2


      Hondo

      1953. USA. Directed by John Farrow. Screenplay by James Edward Grant, from a short story by Louis L'Amour. With John Wayne, Geraldine Page, Ward Bond, James Arness, Leo Gordon, Paul Fix. Striding with all of his mythical stature into the 3-D space created by long-take specialist John Farrow (with an assist from uncredited second unit director John Ford), Wayne is a dispatch rider who takes rancher Geraldine Page and her young son under his protection in the unsettled Southwest of 1874. Courtesy Batjac Productions. 83 min.

      Saturday, June 13, 2015, 7:00 p.m., Theater 2, T2 (Introduced by Gretchen Wayne)

      Sunday, June 14, 2015, 5:00 p.m., Theater 2, T2

      Monday, June 15, 2015, 7:00 p.m., Theater 2, T2

      Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 7:00 p.m., Theater 2, T2

      Wednesday, June 17, 2015, 7:00 p.m., Theater 2, T2

      Thursday, June 18, 2015, 7:00 p.m., Theater 3, mezzanine, Education and Research Building

      Friday, June 19, 2015, 7:00 p.m., Theater 2, T2

      Saturday, July 4, 2015, 4:30 p.m., Theater 2, T2


      Kiss Me Kate

      1953. USA. Directed by George Sidney. Screenplay by Dorothy Kingsley, from the musical Kiss Me Kate, book by Samuel and Bella Spewack, music and lyrics by Cole Porter. With Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Ann Miller, Keenan Wynn, Bobby Van, James Whitmore, Bob Fosse, and Ron Randell. Backstage intrigue alternates with onstage extravagance as composer Cole Porter (Ron Randell) struggles to mount a Broadway musical adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, while tensions between his formerly married stars (Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel) find reflections in Shakespeare's plot. Ann Miller is the tap-dancing other woman; Bob Fosse performs with Carol Haney in his first choreography for film (all 48 seconds worth). Courtesy Warner Brother Classics. 109 min.

      Sunday, June 28, 2015, 5:30 p.m., Theater 2, T2

      Monday, June 29, 2015, 7:00 p.m., Theater 2, T2

      Tuesday, June 30, 2015, 7:00 p.m., Theater 2, T2

      Wednesday, July 1, 2015, 7:00 p.m., Theater 2, T2

      Thursday, July 2, 2015, 7:00 p.m., Theater 3, mezzanine, Education and Research Building

      Friday, July 3, 2015, 7:00 p.m., Theater 2, T2

      Saturday, July 4, 2015, 6:30 p.m., Theater 2, T2


      For more information, links and showtimes, visit www.moma.org.

    • More >
    •  
    •  
    • FROM BROADWAY TO HOLLYWOOD WITH RICHARD GLAZIER

    • Join pianist and historian Richard Glazier as he weaves together interviews, piano performances, and commentary to create a unique view of Broadway and Hollywood through music. Glazier explores the history of the great music that has been written for Broadway musicals and Hollywood films and television, sharing his lifetime love of each, as well as his proven talent as a host/narrator and pianist. FROM BROADWAY TO HOLLYWOOD WITH RICHARD GLAZIER is part of special programming premiering on PBS stations beginning Friday, May 29, 2015 (check local listings).

      Among the remarkable people who appear in this special are the late actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (award-winning star of The F.B.I. and son of famed violinist Efrem Zimbalist); Broadway veteran Patricia Morison (star of the original production of Kiss Me Kate); film and television composer Lalo Schifrin; author Daniel Selznick (son of famed producer David O. Selznick, and grandson of MGM founder Louis B. Mayer); composer/conductor David Newman (son of Alfred Newman, longtime head of the 20th Century Fox Music Department and composer of over 200 film scores); Miles Kreuger, founder of the Institute of the American Musical; and Gene Allen, former president of the Motion Picture Academy and the Art Directors Guild, Academy Award-winning art director (My Fair Lady), and longtime production manager for famed director George Cukor.

      Each of the fascinating interviews relates to, and is shown in conjunction with, a musical selection. For example, Patricia Morison talks about her role in Kiss Me Kate, her relationship with composer/lyricist Cole Porter and the song "So In Love," followed by Richard Glazier performing a glorious piano transcription of the song.

      FROM BROADWAY TO HOLLYWOOD WITH RICHARD GLAZIER features these performances:

      • "Drifting" from the movie Auntie Mame (Bronislaw Kaper)
      • Theme from The FBI (Bronislaw Kaper)
      • "Scene D'Amour" from Vertigo (Bernard Herrmann)
      • Theme from Mannix (Lalo Schifrin)
      • Medley from My Fair Lady (Frederick Loewe/Alan Jay Lerner)
      • "It's A New World" from A Star Is Born (Harold Arlen/Ira Gershwin)
      • "Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz (Harold Arlen/E.Y. Harburg)
      • "So in Love" from Kiss Me Kate (Cole Porter)
      • "Sabre Dance" transcribed for piano by Oscar Levant (Aram Khachaturian)
      • Conclusion of "Rhapsody in Blue" for solo piano (George Gershwin)

      PBS special programming invites viewers to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; hear diverse viewpoints; and take front-row seats to world-class drama and performances. Viewer contributions are an important source of funding, making PBS programs possible. PBS and public television stations offer all Americans from every walk of life the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content.

      For more information, please visit www.richardglazier.com

    • More >
    •  
Frank Capra: The Early Collection DVD
Frank Capra: The Early Collection DVD
$44.99
was $49.99
Columbia Pictures Pre-Code Collection (DVD)
Turner Classic Movies and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment...
$44.99
was $49.99
Hollywood Movie Stills: Art and Technique in the Golden Age of...
This photographic book is the most detailed and perceptive survey...
$24.99
Close

Close

  •  
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca
  •  
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca
  •  
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca