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By Andy Klein | February 7, 2013
There are literally dozens of movies about the Titanic; this 1953 Hollywood version is one of the three best-known (the other two being Roy Ward Baker's “A Night to Remember” and James Cameron's modest little 1997 chamber drama). Like Cameron, director Jean Negulesco (Fox's go-to guy for melodrama at the time), writer/producer Charles Brackett (after the severing of his amazing 12-year collaboration with Billy Wilder), and co-writers Walter Reisch and Richard Breen focused primarily on the romantic lives of fictional characters.
By Andy Klein | June 16, 2012
Back in 1999 (31 years after its 1968 debut), a restored version of this animated Beatles film was shown in theaters and issued on DVD, with a stereo remix and the “Hey, Bulldog!” scene (deleted in the original American version) reinstated. Outside of the musical numbers and a brief appearance at the end, the four jolly lads themselves didn't have much to do with the film, which was designed to fulfill their contractual obligation to United Artists for a third film; their speaking voices are provided by John Clive, Geoffrey Hughes, Peter Batten, and Paul Angelis.
By Andy Klein | November 26, 2012
David Lean's 1962 “Lawrence of Arabia” is one of the most universally praised films ever made, and deservedly so. Nominated for 10 Oscars, winner of seven (including Best Picture), it has only grown better with time. The few aspects that might signal its age are its lack of fancy special effects, its non-surround audio, and Peter O'Toole's boyish face. But its presentation of the roots of modern conflicts in the Mideast seems more relevant and important as time goes on. It is a prerequisite to understanding many of the headlines of this year (and last year ... and the one before that ... etc.)
By Andy Klein | May 14, 2013
Fans of Hong Kong movies expect great fights, beautiful cinematography and charismatic performers, but Peter Ho-sun Chan's "Dragon" is one of the first HK movies in years to experiment with a touch of nonstandard narrative storytelling. Donnie Yen - who replaced Jet Li as the preeminent HK martial arts actor after the latter slowed down - plays Jin-xi, a simple small-town papermaker circa 1917. When two thugs attack a neighbor, the timid Jin-xi bravely joins the fray and manages to kill the bad guys, seemingly through good luck.
By Andy Klein | November 9, 2012
It's not just that Akira Kurosawa's 1950 “Rashomon” brought Japanese film to the west; or that it introduced to us the young, rising Toshiro Mifune; or that its title has become the universal shorthand for the uncertainty of the truth, as seen through different eyes. It's also that it's a great movie that suggests new possibilities each time you watch it. Ergo, it's a film that is more worthy to own on disc than most movies, which are only good for a few viewings. I return to it every few years; even with simply one set of eyes, I've managed to see it in many different ways, sometimes incompatible with each other.
By Andy Klein | May 17, 2013
In his first eight years as a director (1960-67), Jean-Luc Godard released 15 features and numerous shorts, including the most audacious and influential works of the French New Wave, and by extension, of anyone in the world. Stylistically, "Band of Outsiders" (1964), the seventh of these, was a return to his debut, the exuberant, anything-goes "Breathless" (1960). The story - loosely adapted from the American novel "Fools' Gold," by Dolores Hitchens - provides a simple framework for Godard to elaborate and riff on: Two 20-something slackers (Claude Brasseur, Sami Frey)
By Zain Shauk | January 7, 2010
Local entertainment giants DreamWorks Animation and the Walt Disney Co. stoked growing buzz about the future of video entertainment Thursday after each announced it would begin preparing films for in-home 3-D viewing on Blu-ray discs. The announcements came as 3-D video technology took center stage during morning sessions at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where several firms announced new products geared toward in-home three-dimensional entertainment. Glendale-based DreamWorks Animation announced late Wednesday that it planned to capitalize on the popularity of 3-D movies at theaters worldwide by forming a “3-D Alliance” with Samsung Electronics America and Technicolor to deliver a “complete 3-D home entertainment solution in 2010.
By Andy Klein | March 16, 2012
Fox is releasing this sort-of-comedy from Alexander Payne (“Citizen Ruth,” “About Schmidt”) - which won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar and was nominated in several other categories - on both DVD and Blu-ray. If you're into watching supplements, the Blu-ray is a much better deal. The DVD includes “Everybody Loves George,” seven minutes of fulsome praise for star George Clooney. Sure, he's always seemed like a great guy. But do I have to listen to everyone else in the production testifying to that effect?
By Andy Klein | April 17, 2013
In the mid-80s, David Cronenberg went from low-budget indie horror director to acceptance in Hollywood with "The Dead Zone," "The Fly" and "Dead Ringers. " Rather than using his new access to steer yet more Hollywood, he made "Naked Lunch" - drawn loosely from William S. Burroughs' notorious novel, as well as other works and his eventful life - a film sure to alienate, enrage and even nauseate a large portion of the public. Peter Weller plays the "hero," Burroughs surrogate Bill Lee, a writer/junkie drifting - for real or in his head?
October 16, 2012
For some of us, classic Warner Bros. cartoons handily trump the Disney animation from that era (roughly 1933 to 1960). Basically, if you want beautiful pictures and emotional involvement, you go Disney; if you want laughs, more laughs, and milk-out-your-nose laughs, you go Warner Bros. (This is not always true; there are exceptions on either side.) Warner put out six “Golden” DVD collections, which were a mixed bag. (And the first two volumes exhausted a huge percentage of the most beloved shorts.)
By Andy Klein | March 21, 2014
This 1958 comic adventure film from Akira Kurosawa is widely credited as a big influence on “Star Wars:” A legendary general (Toshiro Mifune) has to escort a princess safely through enemy turf, accompanied by two constantly quarrelling peasants. No Luke Skywalker or Han Solo here. Among this new Blu-ray's extras is an eight-minute interview with George Lucas from 2001, in which he forthrightly discusses his great admiration for the film and what “Star Wars” did or didn't get from it. The picture quality is very good, the audio a little less so. There is a new commentary track from film historian Stephen Prince (“The Warriors Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa”)
By Andy Klein | February 7, 2014
“Foreign Correspondent” was Alfred Hitchcock's second American film, arriving in theaters just four months after “Rebecca,” the hit he made for producer David O. Selznick. Both films were nominated for Best Picture, with “Rebecca” winning. As the style of “Rebecca” was a melding of Hitchcock's and Selznick's sensibilities, “Foreign Correspondent” was the first “pure” Hitchcock film in America: that is, its combination of humor and suspense fits it right into a line that runs from “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1934)
By Andy Klein | December 26, 2013
This indie slipped by rather quickly in the fall, lost among a glut of releases. It's the fifth feature from Seattle filmmaker Lynn Shelton, who gained attention with “Humpday” (2009) and “Your Sister's Sister” (2011). The POV switches around within a group of people, a family and their friends: Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt, who also starred in “Your Sister's Sister”) is a massage therapist, who suddenly finds herself repulsed by the slightest physical contact with anyone else.
By Andy Klein | November 12, 2013
With the exception of Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni was internationally the best known Italian director during the foreign film boom of the 1960s. Starting out with documentary shorts in the '40s, he made the transition to dramatic features in 1950. His reputation moved from relative obscurity to world acclaim with “L'Avventura” (1960), the first of a loosely defined “trilogy,” which also included “La Notte” (1961; now out on Blu-ray from Criterion) and “L'Eclisse” (1962)
By Andy Klein | October 21, 2013
Despite his three Oscars, Oliver Stone remains a divisive director, partly because he often reinterprets history as a form of melodrama (“JFK,” “Nixon,” “W.”). Thankfully, in his “Untold History of the United States,” he is restrained and straightforward. Originally airing on Showtime late last year, this 10-hour documentary series presents an outline of the nation's history from World War II to the present. ” Bias may not change the facts - though it frequently does - but it defines just where the fulcrum for the balance sits.
By Andy Klein | September 23, 2013
Classify this one under horror, zombie, big budget, Brad Pitt. In plot and back story, it's another retread of “Day of the Dead,” “28 Days Later,” “I Am Legend” and a zillion others. After bubbling under our radar in several isolated regions, the zombie plague apparently reaches critical mass and descends everywhere. Pitt is a retired U.N. inspector living in Philadelphia (which Glasgow imitates admirably). He reluctantly joins old co-workers in trying to trace the infection, while also desperately attempting to reunite with his wife and two kids.
By Andy Klein | August 15, 2013
For his entire career, Mexican writer/director Guillermo del Toro - currently in theaters with a modest little film named "Pacific Rim" - has moved back and forth between commercial Hollywood productions ("Hellboy", "Blade 2") and more personal Spanish-language films ("Cronos," "Pan's Labyrinth"). "The Devil's Backbone" (2001), the middle film in the latter group, has just been issued on Blu-ray and DVD by Criterion. "The Devil's Backbone" is not so much a horror film as a remarkable mutation of the genre.
By Andy Klein | July 18, 2013
More than halfway through this as yet mediocre year, "Stoker," the English-language debut of Korean director Park Chan-wook - whose masterpiece, "Oldboy," has been remade by Spike Lee for release this fall - remains one of the two or three best (or at least most interesting) films to hit theaters. It's a strange slow-burn horror movie whose virtues may not please the usual horror film audience. The plot is a presumed homage (or a shameless ripoff, depending on your tolerance for such things)
By Andy Klein | July 5, 2013
One of benefits of reviewing home video releases is the opportunity to revise first impressions. "Lifeforce" was one of the earliest reviews of my professional career, and, after the passage of 28 years and 6,000-8,000 more features, it's a relief to be able to say sorry to Tobe Hooper for my non-rave. "Lifeforce" has indeed improved with age. This 1985 sci-fi/horror movie was adapted from the Colin Wilson novel "Space Vampires" - a much catchier and more apt title. Steve Railsback ("Helter Skelter," "The Stunt Man")
By Andy Klein | July 2, 2013
"Things to Come" (or "H.G. Wells' Things to Come," as it's sometimes known) was an oddity when released in 1936 and remains an oddity today. Wells was best known for his turn-of-the-century science-fiction novels ("The Time Machine," "War of the Worlds," "The Invisible Man"), but by the '30s had long since abandoned the "science" and focused on social prophecy. His stature enabled him to demand total script control for this lavish Alexander Korda production, which foresees World War II, though overestimates how long it would last.
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