Category: Features

A Cinematic Playlist: 10 Examples of Great Pop Music Cues

Music is a powerful cinematic tool. It can accentuate directing, acting, and cinematography to make a great scene better than the sum of its parts, it can elevate a normal scene into an iconic scene, and it can manipulate viewer’s emotions in pivotal turning points. Effective and memorable uses of music are one of my cinema guilty pleasures. A great movie doesn’t have to have memorable music cues, but if it does, it will hold a special place in my heart. I’ve gone on a journey through some of my best film memories and compiled a list of some...

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Hot Fuzz

Overview: Cornetto Day continues with Edgar Wright’s second installment of the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy, Hot Fuzz. Universal Pictures; 2007; Rated R; 121 minutes. Blood and Ice Cream: After the release of an undisputed comedic masterpiece, the world eagerly awaited what Edgar Wright would use to solidify his status as the best comedy director working today. Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy are all standalone films; however, there is a thematic line of growth. Shaun of the Dead is about a boy – in a man’s body – becoming a man. Hot Fuzz is about that man who learns to...

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The World’s End

Overview:  Old friends reunite to reattempt a legendary pub crawl.  Universal Pictures; 2013; Rated R; 109 Minutes. Partaking of a Liquid Repast: For all of its outlandish comedic exploits, for all of its zany science fiction plot twists, and for all of its out-of-this-world elements of cinematic magic, it’s quite astonishing to realize that, in the most evident sense, The World’s End is a movie that catches us on the hook of personal empathy, somehow baited by familiar human experience.  To say that Director Edgar Wright pulls “a trick” to accomplish this empathic investment from his audience is to...

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9 Great Movie Pranks for April Fool’s Day

We all love a good practical joke.  Even our earliest scholars and authors have recounted tales of playful tomfoolery.  The art of pranking has become much more prevalent since methods of mass-communication have evolved.  Matter of fact, one of the first pony express telegraphs ever sent was a simple note: “Suck It.”  It was this act that spawned the phrase “Don’t shoot the messenger.”  Maybe. In more recent times, the great Orson Welles sent widespread panic to the whole nation with his iconic War of the Worlds radio broadcast.  Despite being fooled millions of ways and millions of times,...

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The Raid 2: Berandal

Overview: Following the events of The Raid: Redemption, rookie Jakarta cop Rama must go undercover to bring down the corruption in the city and save his family. Sony Pictures Classics/Stage 6 Films; 2014; Rated R; 150 Minutes. The Violence: Holy shit, this movie is violent! From start to finish it’s a flurry of punches, kicks, gruesome injuries, and graphic deaths. This movie is not for the faint of heart. There is barely enough time to recover from one action set-piece before the next one begins. Viewers should watch this with a large audience as the “Oooh’s” and “Oh my’s”...

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Nymphomaniac, Vols. I & II: The Ol’ Bate and Switch

Overview:  A woman confesses her sexual history to a stranger. Magnolia Pictures; 2014; Unrated; Volume 1 = 145 Minutes, Volume II = 124 Minutes. Volume I Right Off the Rails:  The initial volume of Nymphomaniac opens with a woman left beaten in the street.  Here, Joe is played by Charlotte Gainsbourg (her younger self is played by Stacy Martin)  A stranger, Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård), finds her and helps her back to his apartment where she candidly confesses her nymphomania and its history.  Seligman absorbs the information with a wry, ornery smile.  When Joe confesses having “discovered [her] cunt at...

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12 Literary Adaptations That Need to Happen

Look, I’m going to make this pronouncement on this site until someone comes after me:  When it comes to literary adaptations, sometimes the movie is better than the book! Shawshank Redemption?  The movie is better!  Snow Angels, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Shining.  Better movies than books. To Kill a Mockingbird. Damn right I went there. What’s wrong with you literary cowards!  Attack me!  Throw a Nook at me!  Do something! Now, I’m not saying that these hypothetical adaptations would be better than their source material, but these works could make a nice intersection for some of...

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The Hegemony of the Short Film Is No More

My initial thesis was going to be something like, “Short film used to be intended for mass consumption, but over time it became the domain of film school students and the avant garde; a place to prove oneself as a filmmaker.” After doing some research and sampling short films from the past century, however, I realized that my assumption – that earlier short film was not experimental or in any way pushing boundaries as it does today – was totally wrong. Short film as a vehicle for innovation hasn’t changed. What has changed, however, is the audience, and more...

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A Truth Told Lean: The Act of Killing

In 1988, Errol Morris took ownership of a truth.  Morris had set out to make a documentary about Dr. James Grigson.  Grigson was a court psychiatrist whose testimony had helped put over 100 inmates on death row.  A fascinating subject, for sure.  But in his interviews with the doctor and with the inmates against whom Grigson had testified, Morris grew suspicious of the subject, and specifically, developed concerns about one particular case.  Errol Morris went back to the drawing board and refocused his film’s ambition. Morris chased his instinct to its furthest conclusion and used his film to present...

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Seven Samurai

Overview: Akira Kurosawa’s Japanese epic about a group of seven misfit samurai that come together to defend a farming village from bandits. Toho; 1954; Unrated; 207 Minutes. The Original Epic: At the time of Seven Samurai’s release, very few films had a vision or scope as ambitious as Kurosawa’s, with his large action set pieces, unprecedented battles, and sheer number of actors on screen. The film tops the three hour mark, but very little of that time is filler, as Kurosawa provides ample character development in each of the samurai. By the end of the film, each samurai has...

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Like Father, Like Son

Overview: Two families discover that their six year-old sons were switched at birth. 2013. Unrated. 121 Minutes. Like Ozu: Like Father, Like Son focuses on the dynamics of family, and revisits similar themes that director Hirokazu Kore-eda has explored in his previous films (Nobody Knows, Still Walking, I Wish). He is the contemporary equivalent of Yasujirô Ozu, the legendary Japanese director, whose films from the 1930s to the early 1960s focused on the dynamics of Japanese families. Families: Ryota is a successful businessman and enjoys a comfortable life with his wife Midori and quiet son Keita. Ryota doesn’t spend...

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In the Mood For Love

Overview: Set in 1960s Hong Kong, In the Mood For Love, directed by Wong Kar-Wai, is an examination of how the seed of romance can form and leave an indelible mark. USA Films. 2000. Rated PG. 98 Minutes. The Romance: With a delicate and natural touch, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung bring to life the bond that their character’s form over mutual suspicion of their spouses. As the characters begin a romance, absent of sexual contact, viewers fall further and further under the influence of their organic on-screen compatibility. The Setting: The arrangement of imagery is deliberate and top-notch...

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Oldboy (2003)

Overview: A man is kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years, then set free with no explanation. 2003. Show East/Tartan Films. Rated R. 120 Minutes. Korean Filmmaking: Oldboy is the second part of director Park Chan-Wook’s Vengeance Trilogy, and a benchmark in the history of Korean film. It brought a specific style of Korean film (films dealing with violent or disturbing subject matter) to a wider audience and served as an introduction to Korean film for many viewers (including this one). I could ask many acquaintances who aren’t avid movie-goers if they’ve watched a Korean film, and many of them...

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I Saw the Devil

Overview: A secret agent crosses the threshold between good and bad after his fiancée becomes another victim of a cannibalistic serial killer. Magnet Releasing; 2010; Rated R; 141 minutes Revenge Intensified: Revenge films often showcase an unrelenting and horrific gruesomeness, but Kim Ji-woon’s I Saw the Devil takes it much further. The film showcases an escalation of the need for retribution as secret agent Soo-hyeon goes on the ultimate path of revenge after his pregnant fiancée falls victim to cannibalistic serial killer Kyung-chul. On this beaten path, Soo-hyeon obscures the line between the good and the bad, as he vows to...

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Lake Mungo

Overview:  A documentary-style horror movie captures the Palmer family, who have lost their teen daughter to an accidental drowning and pursue their grief to chilling conclusions. Arclight Films; 2008; Rated R; 89 Minutes. Believing the Illusion:  For this film to work, the illusion of the honest documentary is imperative. What holds Lake Mungo together is the sincerity captured in the performances of its actors.  The family of Alice Palmer are framed as convincingly distraught.  The grief feels real, the mourning honest in its weight.  I know little of Australian cinema, but from this single film, I can say that...

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