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Lucy

Scarlett Johansson is an intriguing blank in Luc Besson's "Lucy," which is stranded somewhere between a stranger-in-a-strange-land action thriller and apocalyptic science fiction.

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Hercules

Dwayne Johnson tries, but he’s surrounded by poor CGI and a terrible adaptation of yet another comic book. Ian McShane steals what little movie there…

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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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Thumbnails 5/22/2014

1.

"Paul Walker's Digital 'Fast & Furious' Double and the Troubling Future of Film Acting": IndieWire's Sam Adams deftly criticizes the "face replacement" process used to keep the late actor in the upcoming installment of his highly profitable franchise.

“The ‘face replacement’ process as it’s described is too expensive to be used on a whim, but it's possible to see studios using it as a nuclear option in future contract negotiations: If the real Andrew Garfield is tired of playing Spider-Man, they can just whip up a new one, arguing that Garfield may own his own likeness but they own the image of him as Peter Parker. (Less speculatively, it would sure come in handy when a star is playing hardball about coming back for reshoots.) But it also risks extended the dangers of what HitFix's Drew McWeeny has called ‘the age of casual magic’ to the realm of an actor's performance. When we see a car fly through the air or a rocketship blast into space, we no longer have to wonder, wide-eyed, how they did it: They did it the same way they do everything. But we've been able to trust, up until this point, the idea that when we're watching an actor, we're watching something that happened. They cried real tears; they laughed that laugh. As long as there's been glycerine, and editing, the boundaries have been blurry, but even so, when we looked an actor, we saw something more real than not.”

2.

"Gods and Monsters: Why Godzilla Is Still King": Claire L. Evans of Grantland makes her case for why Godzilla continues to tower above all cinematic monstrosities. 

“Godzilla’s size now verges on the metaphysical. It humbles, implying the existence of greater and more obscure realms of existence — great, cyclopean mysteries on a planet we’ve long considered conquered. In one of the most potent and visually arresting scenes of the new ‘Godzilla,’a group of Marines parachutes into San Francisco while Godzilla is in the throes of building-toppling battle with the MUTOs — Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms, ’roided-out Mothras. As the Marines leap from the plane and into the burning, choking city, they’re majestic; by the time they’re tumbling down along the monsters’ flanks, they’re plastic Army men, no more significant than soda cans in a hurricane.”

3.

"The politics, press, star, and legacy of 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington'": At The Dissolve, Genevieve Koski, Noel Murray, Nathan Rabin, Tasha Robinson and Matt Singer take part in a thoroughly engaging round table discussion of Frank Capra's 1939 masterpiece starring Jimmy Stewart.

“What strikes me most about Stewart in this film, though, is his towering height and scarecrow thinness. I don’t know whether Frank Capra cast him in part because he’s built like Abraham Lincoln—the film certainly identifies him with Lincoln, visually and verbally, several times over—but Capra certainly gets an immense amount of mileage out of his physique by surrounding him with shorter, more corpulent men. They’re literal Washington fatcats who look like they’ve been overeating at the people’s expense their entire lives, while Stewart looks like he’s had to work desperately hard for every bean he’s ever eaten. Capra further heightens the contrast by symbolically dressing Stewart in stark black-and-white, while the men around him are all in moral-compromise grey. Stewart stands out in this film for his moral stance, but he also visually pops off virtually every frame. It’s a genius bit of casting on so many levels. And to think, at one point, Capra considered giving the role to Gary Cooper, and making the film as a sequel to ‘Mr. Deeds Goes To Town.’”

4.

"A Lion Roars, With Gratitude": Playwright Larry Kramer chats with Patrick Healy of The New York Times about the experience of seeing his acclaimed play, "The Normal Heart," get transformed into a star-studded HBO movie directed by Ryan Murphy.

“Mr. Murphy said that he and Mr. Kramer, in the hospital, worked for months on the screenplay by email. They were determined, he said, to create a movie with ‘real immediacy’ — visually graphic scenes that would pack a punch for New Yorkers who lived through the 1980s and that might motivate those continuing to fight for gay rights today. Harrowing monologues in the play, like the description of one character’s physical disintegration on a cross-country flight, have been opened up into fully rendered moments that show the agony of AIDS. ‘I wrote the word ‘true’ on a notecard and put it on my computer,’ Mr. Murphy said. ‘Larry was always trying to be on the right side of the angels, but he can be so abrasive, and he was so hurt by how he was treated by his friends and enemies in the ’80s. I wanted the movie to be true to all sides of him.’ After finding fault in so much, Mr. Kramer found little with the movie, and none with its depiction of his life’s work. ‘It’s about speaking up, being a buffalo if you have to, being mean if you have to,’ Mr. Kramer said. 'You do not get more with honey than with vinegar.’”

5.

"How YouTube and Internet Journalism Destroyed Tom Cruise, Our Last Real Movie Star": LA Weekly critic Amy Nicholson's epic analysis of the star's rise and fall illustrates how the much-publicized "couch jump" never actually happened.

“Like Humphrey Bogart saying, ‘Play it again, Sam,’ Tom Cruise jumping on a couch is one of our mass hallucinations. But there's a difference. Bogart's mythological Casablanca catchphrase got embedded in the culture before we could replay the video and fact-check. Thanks to the Internet, we have video at our fingertips. Yet rather than correct the record, the video perpetuated the delusion. In May 2005, the same month that Cruise went on Oprah, the world of celebrity changed. Perez Hilton and the Huffington Post launched, with TMZ right behind them, and the rise of the gossip sites pressured the print tabloids to joining them in a 24-hour Internet frenzy. Camera phones finally outsold brick phones, turning civilians into paparazzi. YouTube was a week old, and for the first time a video could go viral overnight. The Internet finally had the tools to feed us an endless buffet of fluff, chopping up real events to flashy — and sometimes false — moments that warped our cultural memory. The first star to stumble in front of the knives was the biggest actor in the world — and the one who'd tried the hardest not to trip.”

Image of the Day

Jean-Luc Godard did not attend the Cannes premiere of his new 3D film, "Goodbye to Language," but he did create a short video entitled "Letter in Motion to [Cannes president] Gilles Jacob and [artistic director] Thierry Fremaux]." IndieWire has the video as well as a written translation for non-French speakers.

Video of the Day

Steven Spielberg is not a director known for his exquisitely crafted and choreographed long takes. In the ten-minute video, "The Spielberg Oner," Tony Zhou edits together scenes from twelve of the director's pictures that offer "snappy examples" of his "sneaky long takes." 

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