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Poltergeist

Rarely has a remake felt more contractually obligated than the 2015 version of Poltergeist.

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Sunshine Superman

I found Jean Boenish’s philosophical musings less than persuasive. And I don’t think my fear of heights was the reason for my bias.

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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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From Seattle, with free refills

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"The Off Hours" is now available on most on-demand platforms including Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and most major-cable services. NOTE: The film is not available through DirecTV. It will be released on DVD in January and will premiere on Hulu and Netflix later in 2012.

by Jeff Shannon

There's never been a better time for filmmaking in the Pacific Northwest. Running the entire spectrum from filmgoers and critics to actors, writers and production talent aplenty, the Seattle film community has always been close-knit and cooperative, and its D.I.Y. resourcefulness has resulted in a slow but steady rise of intermingling talent. (Full disclosure: Several of the creative people mentioned below are casual Facebook acquaintances of mine.) Ten years ago and earlier, you were lucky if your micro-budgeted project got finished and accepted by festivals, and for several years it seemed like the Native American drama "Smoke Signals" (written by Northwest author Sherman Alexie and distributed by Miramax in 1998) would be Seattle's only claim to a locally-produced breakout success.

Undeterred, Seattle's film community continued to percolate like the coffee that stereotypically defines "The Emerald City" for most of the outside world. Abundant indie-film projects, and the passions that fueled their creation, have led to a natural progression of experience and expertise, and this year alone the Sundance film festival hosted four films shot in Washington state. When you consider the local history that led us from "Gas City" (an obscure, no-budget 1978 slacker drama shot among the aging motels and nightspots of Seattle's Aurora Avenue) to the international success of director Lynn Shelton's "Humpday" (2009), it's no wonder that Seattle has become the Northwest's answer to Austin, Texas: A film- and music-loving city (per capita, Seattleites are still the nation's #1 moviegoers) where independent filmmakers can find the talent, resources, and community support to foster their projects from start to finish. Indeed, "Start-to-Finish" is the name of an innovative program, introduced by the Northwest Film Forum in 1998, designed to select and co-produce films with the goal of national and global exposure. Canadian alt-auteur Guy Maddin found NWFF so appealing that he came here to shoot his 2006 film "Brand Upon the Brain!," now available on DVD from the Criterion Collection (and photographed by the gifted Benjamin Kasulke -- see below).

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Detour: the guilty soul of film noir

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The Ebert Club is pleased to share this classic film noir, streaming free. I invite you to join the Club and dive into an eclectic assortment of wonderful and curious finds. Your subscription helps support the Newsletter, the Far-Flung Correspondents and the On-Demanders on my site. - RE

"This movie from Hollywood's poverty row, shot in six days, filled with technical errors and ham-handed narrative, starring a man who can only pout and a woman who can only sneer, should have faded from sight soon after it was released in 1945. And yet it lives on, haunting and creepy, an embodiment of the guilty soul of film noir. No one who has seen it has easily forgotten it." - From my Great Movies review

Detour (1945) Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. Written by Martin Goldsmith and Martin Mooney. Starring Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake, Edmund MacDonald and Tim Ryan.

Synopsis: Al is a piano player who sets off hitchhiking his way to California to be with his fiancee. Along the way a convertible driven by Charles Haskell Jr. stops to pick him up. Al is driving while Haskell sleeps when a rainstorm begins and Al pulls over to put up the top. Haskell doesn't wake up and falls out onto the pavement, dead. Al dumps the body, takes Haskell's money, clothes and ID, then drives off in Haskell's car. In voice-over, Al tells the audience that he didn't kill Haskell. After spending the night in a motel, Al picks up another hitchhiker. As it happens, Vera had earlier ridden with Haskell and blackmails Al by threatening to turn him in for murder unless he gives her the money. Note: At the age of 86, Ann Savage was cast by director Guy Maddin to play a shrewish mother in the film My Winnipeg (2007).

For more treasures, go here to join the Club.

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This isn't your Disney Little Mermaid

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"The Little Mermaid from San Francisco Ballet" airs Friday, Dec. 16, at 9 p.m. (check local listings) on PBS's "Great Performances." It is currently available on DVD, and will also appear on PBS On Demand.

by Jana Monji

Whenever I say, "Hans Christian Andersen," in my mind I can hear the voice of Danny Kaye singing out the name of the famous Dane. Kaye played the title role in 1952 musical film, "Hans Christian Andersen. " For another generation, the Little Mermaid is part of a Disney franchise beginning with the 1989 animated feature "The Little Mermaid. " Now comes a ballet, recorded for PBS.

Hamburg Ballet director John Neumeier's "The Little Mermaid" is a visually rich, emotionally complex ballet that takes the famous Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale from its Hollywood interpretations back to its origins. This is a "don't miss" production.

In the original story, the Little Mermaid saves and falls in love with a prince. She makes a bargain with a witch, giving up her beautiful voice in order to have legs. The prince likes her, but doesn't love her and marries another. Given the choice of killing the prince or dying herself, the Little Mermaid dies, but is resurrected in another dimension.

How can you have a franchise if the Little Mermaid dies? You can't, of course. In the Disney feature, "The Little Mermaid," Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson), doesn't die, and instead, does find love with her prince, Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes). Roger Ebert gave the movie four stars, and called it "a jolly and inventive animated fantasy" that restored the magic associated with animated Disney features from an earlier era. The Academy voters gave the film two Oscars--one to Alan Menken for Best Music, Original Score and another to Menken and Howard Ashman (lyrics) for Best Music, Original Song ("Under the Sea")

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Rene Clair's "And Then There Were None"

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The Ebert Club is pleased to share the following film by the great French auteur Rene Clair  and to invite you to join the Club and see what other mysteries lurk in the tree house!

And Then There Were None (1945) Directed by Rene Clair. Written by Dudley Nichols and based on the novel by Agatha Christie. Starring Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, Louis Hayward, Roland Young, Mischa Auer, June Duprez and Judith Anderson.  Winner! 1946 Locarno International Film Festival: Best Film.Synopsis: Ten strangers are summoned to a small island off the coast of Devon, by a mysterious note. Once there they discover that their unknown host, a certain "Mr. Owen", has not yet arrived. They're told he'll be there by dinner and so they retire to their rooms to prepare for the evening. Come dinner, their host has still not arrived and suddenly a voice on a gramophone record proceeds to accuse all of them of past murders they were never prosecuted for. The guests strongly deny any wrong doing and a decision is made to leave the island immediately!  A servant however, tells them that there's no way to get the boat from the mainland. There's also no phone on the island and the boat only comes twice a week. It won't be back until Monday morning and it's only Friday night....

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