Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Best Prison movies

Thanks to slashfilm for the idea...

Haven't seen: Papillon, Stalag 17, In the Name of the Father, Dead Man Walking, The Inmate, On the Yard, Life, Day Break, King of Devil's Island, Stone, Kiss of the Spider Woman, In Your Hands, The Hole, and Midnight Express.

They're certainly right about A Prophet & The Magdalene Sister. So let's try to rank these, shall we?

15. The Magdalene Sisters - this gets bumped down a bit for not being a traditional prison. But it's a harrowing look at the asylums run by the Catholic Church in Ireland for women that families wanted to get rid of. They were technically for 'fallen women,' but those could be women who were raped, deemed too flirtatious, unmarried mothers, the mentally retarded and abused girls.

14. The Usual Suspects - Again, a fabulous movie. I'm bumping it down because the prison part comes early on. But the line-up is an incredibly memorable moment in filmmaking:

Fenster: Hand me the keys, you cocksucker.
Interrogation Cop: In English, please?
Fenster: Excuse me?
Interrogation Cop: In English.
Fenster: Hand me the fucking keys, you cocksucker, what the fuck?

 13. V for Vendetta - Again - not exactly a prison movie, but Evie's time in "prison" is one of the more memorable aspects of the film.

"They put you in a cell and took everything they could take except your life. And you believed that was all there was, didn't you? The only thing you had left was your life, but it wasn't, was it? You found something else. In that cell you found something that mattered more to you than life. It was when they threatened to kill you unless you gave them what they wanted... you told them you'd rather die. You faced your death, Evey. You were calm. You were still."

12. Escape From Alcatraz - the story of the only possible escape from the most famous maximum security prison.

11. The Green Mile - Sam Rockwell so should have been up for Supporting Actor for this. A Stephen King adaptation of a death row during the depression and its inhabitants.

10. Bronson - Tom Hardy SO should have been up for Best Actor for this. An art-biopic of Britain's most violent criminal, who spent 30 years in solitary confinement.

9. Shawshank Redemption. It's good. I never really fell in love with this one the way most people did, but it is good.

 8. Bridge on the River Kwai - A classic. A POW camp drama which examines dignity in adverse conditions, as most prison movies try to do. Few do so as well.

 7. Hunger - Steve McQueen's stunning examination of the 1981 hunger strike in the Maze prison. The film won the Camera d'Or at Cannes. It has one of my favorite scenes ever, in which Liam Cunningham and Michael Fassbender discuss the strike. In one take. For 17 minutes.

 6. The Escapist - A thrilling 'escape from prison' film, with one of my favorite casts ever. Filmed in Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin.

5. Cell 211 - Winner of 8 Goya awards, including Best Picture, Cell 211 is the story of a new guard who, on his first day at work, becomes locked inside during a prison riot and must pass himself off as an inmate in order to survive.

4. Chicago - A prison celebrity satire with awesome numbers, staging and casting in the film adaptation.

3. Cool Hand Luke - Intensely iconic prison film. Om nom nom.

2. The Great Escape - Okay, it's about a POW camp, rather than a proper prison. But it is one of the best films ever, so it is number 2.

1. A Prophet- Absolutely stunning. The story of a French Algerian, who finds himself in prison fought over by the Corsicans and Muslims. Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes.

Honorable Mentions: The Matrix, Convicted, I Love You Philip Morris.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Emmy Noms!

Cue the indignation and outrage in 3...2....

First up, I do have to say - YAY AMERICAN HORROR STORY! It got 17 noms, and tied with Mad Men for the most. 

Best comedy
The Big Bang Theory
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Modern Family
30 Rock


Also how about It's Always Sunny and Louie rather than Curb and Modern Family...
Best drama
Boardwalk Empire
Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
Mad Men


A little sad about The Good Wife, but its gotten some love before, and it has several acting nominations.

Lead actress in drama
Kathy Bates, Harry’s Law
Glenn Close, Damages
Claire Danes, Homeland
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men

Yay Claire Danes and Julianna Margulies!

Lead actor in a drama
Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Damian Lewis, Homeland
Michael C. Hall, Dexter

Yay Bryan Cranston, Damian Lewis, and Michael C. Hall (for making last season's mess remotely watchable.) A little surprised Hugh Laurie didn't get a swan nod. BOO NO TIMOTHY OLYPHANT.

Lead actress in a comedy
Zooey Deschanel, New Girl
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

AMY POEHLER! AMY POEHLER! (I'd be ok with Lena Dunham, too). 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Recent reviews

Okay - I realized I haven't posted any reviews in, um, ages. So a quick few:

Cabin in the Woods - I have mentioned Cabin on here briefly. But again, if you missed it in theaters, you owe it to yourself to check it out on video. Even if you don't like horror films. It isn't as scary as Scream (if it is particularly scary at all). It is, however, very, very clever and amazingly fun. Seriously - SO MUCH FUN. There's a reason it made the CriticWire top 10 for the first half of the year.

The Avengers - We've all seen this, yes? As I wrote to relatives; "It's awesome. Joss Whedon did a really good job with the characters and it was very fun. It has a perfect A+ cinemascore and an 86% from top critics on rotten tomatoes. I have noticed that a few people who didn't completely love it were mainly the ones who hadn't seen Thor beforehand. I don't think you need to have seen any of them, but if you were to see one going in, I'd recommend Thor, just because the villain carries over."

Red Rock West - Indie western noir with Nicolas Cage, Lara Flynn Boyle, Dennis Hopper and JT Walsh. Really fun, super well-made, and a great soundtrack. Arizona stands in for Wyoming and it has some great cinematography. It was clearly made by people who enjoy movies. Definitely check it out.

Mysteries of Lisbon - I couldn't get through this. It was lush, it was beautiful. The melodrama was just more than I could handle on that particular day.

General Orders No. 9 - I'm not sure I'll be able to describe this well. What I've heard it referred to most often is a tone poem. It's a meditation on one county in Georgia using various maps and local history. It has some incredibly lovely sequences and some really interesting animation. It meanders a bit and it is definitely an ART film, but I enjoyed it overall.

Take Shelter - I think I heard too many good things about this before seeing it. The acting was really good, but not the revelation I was expecting. Michael Shannon stars as a man who is either seeing premonitions of the end of the world or is becoming schizophrenic. Jessica Chastain co-stars as his wife.

Dark City (Director's Cut) - This was fun and very stylish. Neo-noir sci-fi. Rufus Sewell wakes up to find he is being hunted by pale men for serial murders. It's a great bit of world building. It seems like a lot of other cyberpunk films were influenced by it - including the Matrix. Probably Inception. Also, the lead pale man looked so familiar I kept wondering who he was the entire film. Turns out it is Richard O'Brien - Riff Raff!

Prometheus - Well. I went in with the wrong expectations here. I was expecting a horror film, as I've heard Alien is (I've seen Aliens and not Alien. I know, I know.) And it isn't. Although there is one bit of body horror that is perfection. I think there was a real lack of character development, which hindered the film. Aside of David (Michael Fassbender) passing the time while everyone else is in stasis. It's really a film about searching for answers and what is knowable, with some fun sci-fi thrown in. If I had understood more about where any of the characters were coming from, it would have been a great film.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter - Ah. I was *little* disappointed. Wah-wah. It was fun in a lot of parts and I probably had my expectations too high. I think I liked Wanted better because it was a little more winking. And I understand why they played it straight, because at some point, it is ABRAHAM LINCOLN fighting VAMPIRES. That said, there are some fantastic set pieces. The train set, the ballroom - Timur really can film action sequences well. There's one scene in stampeding horses where the CGI really wasn't up to snuff, but the rest of the killing played well. The movie is the most fun when Dominic Cooper is around, because he seems to be having the most fun. (spoiler alert: chalk another one up for the conflicted vampire team! Between Louis, Angel, Spike, Mitchell (x2), Bill, and Sparklepants, pretty soon they'll be able to form a soccer team!)

John Carter- this was so close to being awesome. There were clearly a few mistakes in terms of pacing and plot reveal that came from either the first time live director or studio interference on such a large investment. But Lynn Collins is pretty great and woola is the best ever.

Scottsboro Boys - Brilliant. The final Kander and Ebb musical. It uses the construct of a minstrel show to tell the story of the Scottsboro Boys (much the way Cabaret uses cabaret and Chicago uses vaudeville.) Susan Stroman directed and choreographed. It only lost choreography because of Anything Goes tap number, but in any other year it would have won. And the staging was inventive and original. I understand the people probably stayed away for the subject matter, but it's really unfortunate. It is so well done, but I think people prefer thinking about race relations when in play form, rather than musical. I don't think Caroline or Change did well at the box office either.

My only quibble is that it ends with Rosa Parks, which comes across as a cheap way to get a standing ovation. There is a historical reason - apparently Rosa Parks' husband campaigned for the Scottsboro Boys, BUT... it is so good, it would get a standing ovation anyway.

I did also see Danny Boyle's Frankenstein, which was really, really good. As with all the NT Live shows, I have to hope they'll start making them available on DVD at some point, as I've missed a number I'd really like to watch (particularly Derek Jacobi as Lear at the Donmar Warehouse.) I ended up seeing it twice - and I preferred the one with Johnny Lee Miller as the Creature and Benedict Cumberbatch as Victor. Some of the shots were better and I think Cumberbatches does the posh thing better than the creature thing. I was incredibly impressed with Johnny Lee Miller - I don't like

Otherwise, I've been devouring The Good Wife (Love. Love love love.), and I started Battlestar Galactica, which is pretty good. I tried watching Sports Night, and just COULD NOT get into it. I don't see why it is more beloved than Studio 60. 

I missed a new restoration of Grand Illusion at the Castro, as well as The Deep Blue Sea and Sound of My Voice. Sadness. To add to queue. Lots coming up in the next week, including Beasts of the Southern Wild, Spider Man, and some films at the Silent Film Festival. Oh, and the new staging of Les Mis. Whee!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Beautiful Mix

Years ago, I had a roommate who had a mix she called "The Beautiful Mix." It was a simple concept; songs she thought were beautiful. It had some Crosby Stills Nash and Young, some Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Propellerheads, Dylan, Santana... We listened to it a lot. And several of the songs became some of my favorites.

So - when I was working on the instrumental movie list, and listening to the Last of the Mohicans soundtrack again, I thought I should put together my own list. I won't include it all here (it now runs to 300 tracks), but here is a sampling (trying to mostly avoid songs I've mentioned elsewhere).  Are some overused? Yes. Oh well.

57821 - Janelle Monae (ft. Deep Cotton)

Foolish Games - Jewel
Save Me - Joan Armatrading
Winter (Allegro Non Molto) - Vivaldi
Video Games - Lana Del Rey

Wicked Games - Chris Isaak
Midnight - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Siuil a Run - The Chieftains ft. Sissel

Dreaming My Dreams - The Cranberries
The Promise - Tracy Chapman
The Kiss - Trevor Jones
Because - Elliott Smith

The Highwayman - Loreena McKennit
Bird Gerhl - Antony and the Johnsons
Veni, Veni Emmanuel - Trad.
Happy Home - Garbage
Kissing You - Des'ree
The Snow Leopard - Shearwater

Friday, July 6, 2012

Breaking News

I have a new favorite TV poster. Granted, I didn't use the Damon Carlton and a Polar Bear art posters last time around, and this comes from Breaking Gifs. BUT. It is just so gorgeous, I had to share:

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

CriticWire's best of the first six months of 2012

IndieWire has their annual half-way point roundup. Here are a few of the categories:
Top Theatrical Releases of 2012:
1. Sleepless Night (Film Page), directed by Frederic Jardin (2011 TIFF - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (10.125 out of 12.0, 16 reviews)
2. This is Not a Film (Film Page), directed by Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmas (2011 Cannes - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.75 out of 12.0, 28 reviews)
3. The Turin Horse (Film Page), directed by Bela Tarr (2011 Berlin - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire rating: A- (9.714 out of 12.0, 20 reviews)
4. The Island President (Film Page), directed by Jon Shenk (2011 TIFF - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.5 out of 12.0, 10 reviews)
5. Under African Skies (Film Page), directed by Joe Berlinger (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.375 out of 12.0, 8 reviews)
6. The Raid: Redemption (Film Page), directed by Gareth Evans (2011 TIFF - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.349 out of 12.0, 43 reviews)
T7. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (Film Page), directed by David Gelb (2011 TIFF - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire rating: B+ (9.25 out of 12.0, 11 reviews)
T7. I Wish (Film Page), directed by Hirozaku Kore-Eda (2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.25 out of 12.0, 16 reviews)
9. The Kid with a Bike (Film Page), directed by Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne (2011 Cannes - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.2 out of 12.0, 54 reviews)
10. 5 Broken Cameras (Film Page), directed by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.143 out of 12.0, 14 reviews)
Runners-up: "The Secret World of Arrietty," "Oslo, August 31st," "Attenberg"
I want to see Sleepless Night (thriller), The Raid (kick-ass awesomeness), and The Kid with the Bike (critically acclaimed). Also the Secret World of Arrietty.

Top Festival Premieres of 2012:
1. Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story (Film Page), directed by Raymond De Felitta (2012 Festival Premiere - Tribeca)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (10.286 out of 12.0, 7 reviews)
2. High Tech, Low Life (Film Page), directed by Stephen T. Maing (2012 Festival Premiere - Tribeca)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (10.125 out of 12.0, 8 reviews)
3. Journey to Planet X (Film Page), directed by Myles Kane and Josh Koury (2012 Festival Premiere - Tribeca)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (10.0 out of 12.0, 7 reviews)
4. Holy Motors (Film Page), directed by Leos Carax (2012 Festival Premiere - Cannes)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.92 out of 12.0, 25 reviews)
5. The Invisible War (Film Page), directed by Kirby Dick (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire rating: A- (9.9 out of 12.0, 10 reviews)
6. Tchoupitoulas (Film Page), directed by Bill Ross and Turner Ross (2012 Festival Premiere - SXSW)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.833 out of 12.0, 6 reviews)
7. Amour (Film Page), directed by Michael Haneke (2012 Festival Premiere - Cannes)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.8 out of 12.0, 30 reviews)
8. No (Film Page), directed by Pablo Larrain (2012 Festival Premiere - Cannes)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.786 out of 12.0, 14 reviews)
9. Side by Side (Film Page), directed by Chris Kenneally (2012 Festival Premiere - Berlin)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.583 out of 12.0, 12 reviews)
10. West of Memphis (Film Page), directed by Amy Berg (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.5 out of 12.0, 10 reviews)
Runners-up: "Under African Skies," "Searching for Sugar Man," "Sleepwalk with Me"
Want to see: Side by Side (filmmakers on film) and Holy Motors (crazy pants).
Top English-Language Features of 2012:
1. Sleepwalk with Me (Film Page), directed by Mike Birbiglia and Seth Barrish (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire rating: B+ (9.364 out of 12.0, 11 reviews)
2. Sightseers (Film Page), directed by Ben Wheatley (2012 Festival Premiere - Cannes)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.083 out of 12.0, 12 reviews)
3. Compliance (Film Page), directed by Craig Zobel (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.0 out of 12.0, 27 reviews)
4. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Film Page), directed by Benh Zeitlin (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (8.962 out of 12.0, 53 reviews)
5. Sound of My Voice (Film Page), directed by Zal Batmanglij (2011 Sundance - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire rating: B+ (8.875 out of 12.0, 16 reviews)
6. The Surrogate (Film Page), directed by Ben Lewin (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire rating: B+ (8.857 out of 12.0, 21 reviews)
7. Moonrise Kingdom (Film Page), directed by Wes Anderson (2012 Festival Premiere - Cannes, Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (8.842 out of 12.0, 57 reviews)
8. The Cabin in the Woods (Film Page), directed by Drew Goddard (2012 Festival Premiere - SXSW, Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (8.821 out of 12.0, 5 reviews)
9. Liberal Arts (Film Page), directed by Josh Radnor (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (8.818 out of 12.0, 11 reviews)
10. Somebody Up There Likes Me (Film Page), directed by Bob Byington (2012 Festival Premiere - SXSW)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (8.8 out of 12.0, 11 reviews)
Runners-up: "You Are Here," "Your Sister's Sister," "Bernie"
I've already raved about Liberal Arts and Cabin in the Woods (hmm - maybe I didn't get around to writing up a review. Suffice to say, it is AWESOME. I love it SO MUCH. SO MUCH. I cannot WAIT for the DVD. I am gonna freeze frame the hell outta that sucker.). Beasts of the Southern Wild, Sightseers and the Surrogate aren't out in SF yet. Need to see Moonrise Kingdom. Missed Sound of my Voice, but can't WAIT for DVD. I really like Brit Marling.
Over on the site are the best foreign language and best documentary features as well. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

EW's 50 best movies you haven't seen

in the last two decades. Here's the list:
  1. 24 Hour Party People (2002)
  2. Backbeat (1994)
  3. Bamboozled (2000)
  4. Box Of Moonlight (1996)
  5. Broken English (2007)
  6. Bubba-Ho-Tep (2002)
  7. Century Of Self (2002)
  8. Chuck & Buck (2000)
  9. Cold Comfort Farm (1995)
  10. The Daytrippers (1996)
  11. Devil's Playground (2002)
  12. Dig! (2004)
  13. Enter The Void (2009)
  14. Eve's Bayou (1997)
  15. Fish Tank (2009)
  16. Fly Away Home (1996)
  17. George Washington (2000)
  18. Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai (1999)
  19. Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009)
  20. Happy Accidents (2000)
  21. Idiocracy (2006)
  22. The Iron Giant (1999)
  23. I've Loved You So Long (2008)
  24. Last Night (2010)
  25. Layer Cake (2004)
  26. Lilya 4-Ever (2002)
  27. Love And Basketball (2000)
  28. The Magdalene Sisters (2002)
  29. Marwencol (2010)
  30. Memories Of Murder (2003)
  31. Moon (2009)
  32. Murderball (2005)
  33. My Summer Of Love (2004)
  34. Next Stop Wonderland (1998)
  35. The Orphanage (2007)
  36. Perfect Blue (1997)
  37. Prime (2005)
  38. Primer (2004)
  39. The Ref (1994)
  40. Rescue Dawn (2007)
  41. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
  42. The Rules Of Attraction (2002)
  43. Safe Men (1998)
  44. Smiley Face (2007)
  45. Surfwise (2007)
  46. Together (2000)
  47. Two Family House (2000)
  48. Walking And Talking (1996)
  49. Wendy And Lucy (2008)
  50. Wristcutters - A Love Story (2006)
Why yes, there are three Sam Rockwell films on here. Quite a few on my "to see" list and a couple I have never heard of (Lilya 4-ever? Two family house?)

    Sunday, July 1, 2012


    Testing audio...

    TV themes/credits

    And speaking of tv... Vulture had a piece a while back about favorite television themes.

    I'll agree with Mission Impossible and Deadwood, but that's about it. I'll admit to a fondness for actual songs as themes (Bosom Buddies, Justified, CSI, Veronica Mars, True Blood)

    I really like the How I Met Your Mother theme, because it sounds like the kind of ditty you'd shout along with at a bar.

    What else? The X-Files, Firefly, Doctor Who, Blackadder, The Wire, Dragnet, Adams Family, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Knight Rider, Law & Order, The Lone Ranger, M*A*S*H*...

    Top Gear, obviously


    I can also tell you my least favorite: Big Bang Theory. Ugh. Mute.

    Speaking of Deadwood, it also is one of my favorite opening sequences:

    Other best credits: Carnivale