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The Choice

The Choice totally botches its central pairing, to the point where you might find yourself hoping the blandly irksome twosome fail to even get together.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Ebert Club All-Time Short Film Retrospective

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The Ebert Club recently celebrated its 2nd birthday and in honor of the occasion, we'd like to share a collection of short films which have appeared inside the Newsletter. The cream of the crop!  And to explore an even greater assortment of finds and discoveries, please join the Ebert Club. Your subscription helps support the Newsletter, the Far-Flung Correspondents and the On-Demanders on Roger's site.

Fly (2010) Directed by Alan Short, the "Fly" is part of a series of animated shorts from Aardman Animation. Synopsis: A man and his pet dog attempt to remove a pesky fly with humorous results...

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New Year's with Steve: In tribute to a great heart

* *It's hard to believe Steve Goodman has been gone for 25 years. Even though we knew he had leukemia, and sang for 16 years with it, he fought it with courage and good cheer. You counted yourself blessed to find a chair when he presided at the Earl of Old Town every New Year's Eve.

Steve was the composer of great songs funny and sad, and a guitarist of amazing skill. He didn't claim to have a great voice, but he had the right voice for Steve Goodman and his loving audiences. He was above all a friendly soul with a big grin, and he would sing anything on New Year's Eve if it made him laugh."I miss my old man tonight," he sang in one of his great songs. I miss Steve Goodman tonight. • • * • * *Steve's most famous song, played to our astronauts on the Moon, was "The City of New Orleans." He was in fine form here, with his dear friend Jethro Burns. A later performance is offered lower down on this page. * *

* * * ** * Pete Seeger, Harry Chapin and Steve *Steve sings "The Twentieth Century is Almost Over" * *

* * ** *Steve and Jethro Burns *Steve performs "Tico Tico" with Jethro. When Homer and Jethro performed before the Fourth of July fireworks at Memorial Stadium in Urbana - Champaign in the 1950s, I ran up 15 flights of stairs to get their autograph. * *

* * * ** *Steve performs "A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request" from a rooftop overlooking Wrigley Field. * *

* * * ** *Janis Ian and Steve *Steve does his tongue-twister "Talk Backwards" *

* * * * * *Steve and John Prine sing Steve's song "Souvenirs" *

* * * * * *John Prine sings Steve's "My Old Man" *

* * * * * * *Steve and Jethro singing Michael Peter Smith's "Dutchman." Steve and many others in the Chicago Folk Revival (John Prine, Bonnie Koloc, Larry Rand, Fred Holstein) all had a special love for this song, which Steve popularized. • *

* * • * *Steve and Jimmy Buffet *Steve and Bobby Bare live, singing "The City of New Orleans." Looking at this video, my feeling is that Steve was fairly ill at this time. There's a little energy lacking in his voice. But the joy is there. * •

* * * * * •The City pulling out of Chicago more than 60 years ago * *For a bio, discography and ordering info for all of Steve's many albums, this is the place to go. And by the way, the guy on the left in the photo is Earl Pionke, owner of the legendary folk mecca The Earl of Old Town. Once when he was throwing out a drunk, the guy demanded to know his last name, "Of Old Town," he said.

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Silent weirdness with the Alloy Orchestra

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The famed Alloy Orchestra of Cambridge, Mass., performed their original compositions to a group of "Wild and Weird" early silent shorts on April 27 at Ebertfest. This is a sample of the program, with titles by Ken Winokur. Check their web site to see when they're coming to your area.

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The Lady from Shanghai

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The Ebert Club would like to present the noir film "The Lady from Shanghai" by director Orson Welles, streaming free. And to explore an even greater assortment of finds and discoveries, please join the Ebert Club. Your subscription helps support the Newsletter, the Far-Flung Correspondents and the On-Demanders on Roger's site.

"Although The Lady From Shanghai was acclaimed in Europe, it was not embraced in the U.S. until several decades later. Influential modern critics including David Kehr have subsequently declared it a masterpiece, calling it "the weirdest great movie ever made." - wikipedia

The Lady from Shanghai (1947) Directed by Orson Welles. Screenplay by Orson Welles. Based on the novel by author Sherwood King. Uncredited writers: William Castle, Charles Lederer and Fletcher Markle. Starring Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles, Everett Sloane, Ted de Corsica, Erskine Sanford, Glenn Anders, Gus Schilling and Carl Frank. With Cinematography by Charles Lawton Jr.Synopsis: Against his better judgment, Michael O'Hara signs on as a crew member of Arthur Bannister's yacht which is sailing to San Francisco. En route, they pick up a man named Grisby; Bannister's law partner. Bannister also has a wife, Rosalie, and who appears to like Michael more than her husband.After they dock in Sausalito, a strange plan is proposed by the law partner: namely; Grisby wants to fake his own murder so he can disappear without anyone trying to find him. Michael agrees to the scheme because he wants the $5000 Grisby has offered him - so he can run off with Rosalie. But when Grisby actually turns up murdered, Michael gets blamed for it. Somebody set him up, but it is not clear who or how... Note: The yacht Zaca (used in the film) was owned by actor Errol Flynn, who skippered the yacht in between takes, and who can be glimpsed in the background during a scene filmed at a cantina in Acapulco.Twelve years later, in need of money, Errol Flynn (accompanied by 17-year-old starlet Beverly Aadland) flew to Canada in order to sell his yacht to a millionaire friend; stock promoter George Caldough. Flynn suffered a heart attack and died in a West End apartment on October 9, 1959 in Vancouver. He was 50 years old.

Go here to watch "The Lady from Shanghai" on Crackle.com

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Intro: "A Horrible Experience of Unbearable Length"

My third collection of reviews of movies I really hated. Order A Horrible Experience of Unbearable Length: More Movies That Suck from Barnes and Noble, Amazon or the independent bookstore of your choice:

Introduction to the book By Roger Ebert I received several messages from readers asking me why I felt it was even necessary for me to review "The Human Centipede II." (There was also one telling me it should have been titled "Human Centipede Number Two," but never mind that one.) My reply was that it was my duty. I feared it would attract large crowds to the box office, and as it turned out I was right. I did what I could to warn people away. Certain colleagues of mine discussed it as a work of art (however "flawed"). I would beg them to think really, really hard of another movie opening the same weekend that might possibly be better for the mental health of their readers.

It was not my duty to review many of the other movies in this book. I review most of the major releases during the year, but I also make it a point to review lots of indie films, documentaries, foreign films, and what we used to call "art movies" and might now call "movies for grown ups." If I had skipped a few of these titles, I don't believe my job would have been threatened. But I might have enjoyed it less.

After reviewing a truly good movie, the second most fun is viewing a truly bad one. It's the in-between movies that can begin to feel routine. Consider, for example, the truly bad "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" (2009), the movie that provided the title for this book. I saw the movie, returned home, sat down at the computer keyboard, and the opening words of my review fairly flew from my fingertips: "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" is a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments. Where did those words come from? They were the simple truth. Gene Siskel always argued that he was a newspaperman first and a film critic second: "I cover the movie beat." What that meant for him is that his first paragraph should be the kind of "lead" they teach you to write in journalism school. Before you get to your opinion about a new movie, you should begin with the news. We could have an interesting discussion about whether the opening of my "TROF" review was news or opinion. To me, it was completely factual. To many readers who posted comments on my blog, it was completely inaccurate. It was opinion, and my opinion was wrong.

Yes, there are people who like the Transformers movies. I sorta liked the first one myself, in 2007. The charm wore off. The third in the series, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (2011) was no better. Predictably, some critics were inspired by TDOM to analyze the visual style of Michael Bay. Finding success in a Michael Bay film is like finding the Virgin on a slice of toast, but less rewarding.

Sometimes in my negative reviews I have weaknesses. I'm aware of them, and yet I indulge them all the same. Show me a bad movie about zombies or vampires, for example, and I will inevitably go into speculation about the reality that underlies their conditions. A few days ago, I was re-watching Murnau's original "Nosferatu" (1922), and something struck me for the first time. As you may recall, Graf Oriok, a character inspired by Count Dracula, encloses himself in a coffin and ships himself along with a group of similar coffins on a freighter bound for Wisbourg. He carries with him the Black Plague, which will kill everyone on board.

It struck me that this was an extraordinary leap of faith on his part. Inside the coffin he is presumably in the trance-like state of all vampires. He certainly must anticipate that everyone on board will soon be dead. The ship will be at the mercy of the winds and tides. If by good chance it drifts to Wisbourg (which it does), what can the good people of Wisbourg be expected to do? Prudently throw the coffins overboard or sink the ship to protect themselves from the plague, I imagine. But if they happen to open his coffin in sunlight, Graf Oriok will be destroyed. Luckily, he releases himself from the coffin at night, sitting bolt upright in a famous scene. But think of the things that could have gone wrong.

That's how my mind works. We are now far away from the topic of "Nosferatu." I am also fascinated by Darwin's Theory of Evolution as it implies to zombies. Since Richard Dawkins teaches us that the only concern of a selfish gene is to survive until the next generation of the organism that carries it, what are the prospects of zombie genes, which can presumably be transmitted only by the dead? And now do zombies reproduce, or spread? Oh, I could go on. Why must they eat flesh? Why not a whole foods diet of fruits, vegetables and grains? Maybe a little fish?

I know this has nothing to do with film criticism. I am blown along by the winds of my own zeal. If a good vampire or zombie movie comes along, I do my best to play fair with it. With a bad one, I am merciless and irresponsible. That's why I like the bad ones best.

Perhaps my reasoning goes like this: Few people buying the newspaper are likely to require a serious analysis of, for example, James Raynor's "Angry and Moist: An Undead Chronicle" (2004). This is a zombie movie I haven't seen so it will work well as an example. Therefore, it is my task to write a review that will be enjoyable to read even if the reader has no interest in the film and no plans to ever see it.

I suppose that explains a good many of the reviews in this book. Some of the films herein are only fairly bad. Some are not bad so much as evil and reprehensible. Others, let's face it, have no importance at all other than in inspiring movie reviews. Of all the films in this book, it is for those I am most grateful.

Click here to order a new or used copy of I Hated, Hated, HATED this Movie (2000). And here to order, new or used, a copy of Your Movie Sucks (2007).

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My video tours of London, Cambridge and York

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I was so surprised to find this on You Tube. I hosted several segments of the "Focus on Britain" series in the 1980s. It was produced by the British Tourist Authority. I haven't seen this in more than 25 years.

...and then, a month later, this turned up! It was found by my reader David Wenk. I'd never seen it. I take the reader on the route traced by my book The Perfect London Walk. With an introduction by Sir MIchael Caine, no less. When David found this and told me about it, it had less than 100 hits, perhaps because the title didn't tempt Google.

Above: My self-portrait while walking from Cambridge to Grantchester. Below: My point of view in a London cab.

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