"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.
* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.
A year after the death of Roger Ebert, our critics and contributors on the site that bears his name were asked to share a memory of the man.
Recent releases on Blu-ray.
Michael Mirasol shares what he wants to say to Roger after seeing "Life Itself".
Anath White picks her favorite piece of Roger's writing.
We catch up with Irv Slifkin, the man behind MONDO MEYER, a Philadelphia event celebrating the work of filmmaker Russ Meyer.
Haji, one of the stars of "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" has passed away.
"Blood Feast" is a terrible film, and a historically important one, too. On the fiftieth anniversary of its release, Simon Abrams revisits this gore-fest.
Charlie Schmidlin reports from a screening of the Roger Ebert–scripted "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls."
Rating: Four stars
Consider now the curious character of Dr. King Schultz. He is an itinerant dentist who works from his little wagon, traveling the backroads of the pre-Civil War South. As Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" opens, we see a line of shackled slaves being led through what I must describe as a deep, dark forest, because those are the kinds of forests we meet in fairy tales. Out of this deepness and darkness, Schultz (Christoph Waltz) appears, his lantern swinging from his wagon, which has a bobbling tooth on its roof.
The two most important things that can happen to you in a mainstream movie are being killed and having an orgasm. Sometimes in facial close-ups it's hard to tell one from the other. When Pauline Kael saw that wall poster in Italy saying "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," she sensed she was onto something.
● Jackboots on Whitehall (DVD/VOD/Digital cable July 26) ● American Grindhouse (DVD/Hulu July 26)
by Steven Boone
The animated comedy "Jackboots on Whitehall" does its best to tweak every British stiff-upper-lip stereotype ever perpetuated in film and popular culture since World War II. This satire employs puppet animation techniques familiar from "Team America: World Police" and classic George Pal puppetoons, but with exquisite production design more akin to Wes Anderson's stop-motion "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Instead of marionettes or stop-motion, however, filmmakers Edward and Rory McHenry employ animatronic dolls enhanced with CGI.
The period detail in this account of Hitler's alt-reality occupation of London is stunning: a convincing re-creation of Whitehall, the road whose major landmarks comprise the seat of British government; the airship Hindenburg, which, in this reality, never blew up and now serves as a Nazi attack vehicle; Hadrian's Wall and the hills of Scotland; vintage fighter planes, palaces, tanks, luxury cars... Equally meticulous is the costuming, from Winston Churchill's pinstriped suit to the Raj soldiers' blue turbans.
While the McHenry brothers' puppets aren't articulated beyond some binary limb and neck movements, they are sculpted with such expressive character it's easy to suspend disbelief. Exuberant character voices help. Timothy Spall as a gruff Churchill, Alan Cumming as a fey Hitler and Tom Wilkinson as a simpering Goebbels play it lip-smackingly broad. Richard E. Grant portrays a tightly wound priest so perpetually furious that its possible he gave his entire performance through clenched teeth. Ewan McGregor lends the unlikely farm boy hero some warmth. Along the way, some downright filthy jokes fly by almost subliminally, under kids' radar (including a visual joke last seen in "Boogie Nights"). In fact, so much of the humor is adult, whether in raunchiness or complexity, that Jackboots on Whitehall is less a family film than one for liberal parents and their precocious teens. The DVD includes a fascinating behind-the-scenes documentary that details just how much love went into this handcrafted epic.
Marie writes: Each year, the world's remotest film festival is held in Tromsø, Norway. The Tromsø International Film Festival to be exact, or TIFF (not to be confused with Toronto.) Well inside the Arctic Circle, the city is nevertheless warmer than most others located on the same latitude, due to the warming effect of the Gulf Stream. This likely explains how they're able to watch a movie outside, in the snow, in the Arctic, in the winter. :-)
This entry is safe for work.
I hesitated just a moment before including Miss June 1975 in my piece about Hugh Hefner. I wondered if some readers would find the nude photograph objectionable. Then I smiled at myself. Here I was, writing an article in praise of Hefner's healthy influence on American society, and I didn't know if I should show a Playmate of the Month. Wasn't I being a hypocrite? I waited to see what the reaction would be.
The Sun-Times doesn't publish nudes on its site, but my page occupies a sort of netherland: I own it in cooperation with the newspaper, but control its contents. If anyone complains, I thought, it will be the paper, and if they do I'll take it down.
From the moment that Hal Holmes and I slipped quietly into his basement and he showed me his father's hidden collection of Playboy magazines, the map of my emotional geography shifted toward Chicago. In that magical city lived a man named Hugh Hefner who had Playmates possessing wondrous bits and pieces I had never seen before. I wanted to be invited to his house.
I was trembling on the brim of puberty, and aroused not so much by the rather sedate color "centerfold" of an undressed woman, as by the black and white photos that accompanied them. These showed an ordinary woman (I believe it was Janet Pilgrim) entering an office building in Chicago, and being made up for her "pictorial." Made up! Two makeup artists were shown applying powders and creams to her flesh. This electrified me. It made Pilgrim a real person. In an interview she spoke of her life and ambitions.
This, for the benefit of future rock historians, is the transscript of a screenplay I wrote in the summer of 1977. It was tailored for the historic punk rock band the Sex Pistols, and was to be directed by Russ Meyer and produced by the impresario Malcolm McLaren. It still carried its original title, "Anarchy in the U.K.," although shortly after I phoned up with a suggested title change, which was accepted: "Who Killed Bambi?" I wrote about this adventure in my blog entry McLaren & Meyer & Rotten & Vicious & me. Discussions with Meyer, McLaren and Rene Daalder led to this draft. All I intend to do here is reprint it. Comments are open, but I can't discuss what I wrote, why I wrote it, or what I should or shouldn't have written. Frankly, I have no idea.
From Ian Carsia:
"I need you out here," Russ Meyer told me on the phone in 1977. It was 6 a.m. He could not conceive that I might still be asleep. "Have you ever heard of the Sex Pistols?"
"No," I said.
"They're a rock band from England. They got a lot of publicity for saying 'fuck' on TV. Now they have some money and want me to direct their movie."
Live-tweeted from Los Angeles:
My friend Billy Baxter passed away in his sleep, early on the morning of Friday, Jan. 20, 2012. He was 86. His son Jack wrote me:
"He didn't suffer. I was with him when he was taken to the hospital by ambulance on Wednesday. He died in his sleep early this morning. His wake is Monday, January 23, at Barrett Funeral Home, 424 West 51st Street, from 2-5 and 7-9. His funeral mass is Tuesday at 10am at St. Paul the Apostle, 405 W 59th St, New York, 10019. He is being cremated."
The Sun-Times' Dave Hoekstra writes about Tura Santana here.
Manny Farber has died. The great iconoclast of American film criticism was 91. He coined the term "underground film," contrasted "termite art" with "white elephant art" in a way that started you thinking about movies in such terms, and once described the auteur theory thusly (I quote from memory): "A bunch of guys standing around trying to catch some director pushing art up into the crevices of dreck."
View image The site says "NC-17" but the box art says "R." Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution" won the Venice Film Festival last year. But that's not the version Blockbuster carries. Would you have known you weren't seeing the version released in the US -- especially if you rented it based on the contradictory online info you see here?
IFC Entertainment has made a two-year agreement with Blockbuster® Video, giving the moribund sales and rental mega-chain "an exclusive 60-day rental window, including both the physical and digital rental distribution channels, for each title as it becomes available. During this period no title will be available on a retail basis in any format."
According to a joint press release, "After the 60-day period, the IFC titles will be available on a non-exclusive basis both for retail and digital distribution. However, Blockbuster will retain the exclusive physical rental distribution rights for IFC titles for three years after each street date." (You read that right: It's a two-year agreement with a three-year exclusive.)
Currently, some IFC Films, released on their First Take label ("Paranoid Park," "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 days," "Hannah Takes the Stairs," "The Wind That Shakes the Barley"), have been available via Comcast's On Demand service the same day they arrive in theaters. Will that still be the case?
The Weinstein Company made an "exclusive" four-year deal with Blockbuster that went into effect in 2007, although that hasn't prevented NetFlix or other competitors from renting or selling Weinstein movies under the "first sale doctrine." As the Dallas Morning News reported at the time of the Weinstein-Blockbuster agreement: "Under federal statute, companies such as Blockbuster and Netflix are able to rent out the movies they purchase without getting permission from anyone."
View image Activism as political cartoon: "Chicago 10."
My reviews of "Chicago 10, " "The Counterfeiters," and "The Other Boleyn Girl" are in the Chicago Sun-Times and RogerEbert.com. Guess which review this is from:
Mary Boleyn: "You know I love him."
Anne Boleyn: "Well, perhaps you should stop."
Sassed her, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
If Russ Meyer had made "The Other Boleyn Girl," Anne and Mary Boleyn would have yanked some hair, scratched some eyeballs, walloped each other in their respective kissers, and the movie would have been all the better for it. Just imagine: "Beneath the Valley of the Tudorvixens": Meee-oww!
As it is, "The Other Boleyn Girl" is a sullen genre picture, hardly as vivacious as Meyer's uncategorizable sexploitation films, and not as edifying, either. It's built on sturdy old generic conventions, as familiar as those in any slasher film or naughty-nurses potboiler.
From Joe Blevins, Arlington Heights, IL:
Q: Ousmane Sembene's "Moolaade" was my favorite film at your Overlooked Festival this year. I was so saddened to hear of his recent death.