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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 6/20/14

1.

"Master Class": The New Yorker's Larissa MacFarquhar reports the soul-crushing news revealed by Stephen Sondheim that Disney has decided to destroy his flawless musical, "Into the Woods," for the big-screen, deleting songs and altering key plot points in order to make the film more family-friendly.

“‘Into the Woods,’ a concoction of fairy tales even more twisted than the originals, is being made into a Disney movie, and the transition from its louche Broadway version has not been without obstacles. ‘You will find in the movie that Rapunzel does not get killed, and the prince does not sleep with the baker’s wife,’ he said. The teachers gasped, but Sondheim shrugged. ‘You know, if I were a Disney executive I would probably say the same thing,’ he said. A teacher asked what would happen to the song ‘Any Moment’ if the baker’s wife remained chaste. ‘Don’t say the song is cut.’ ‘The song is cut.’ The teachers cried out in despair.”

2.

"OK Go's 'Writing on the Wall' Music Video Continues to Revive the Medium": Caroline Pate of Bustle.com spotlights and provides a link to the extraordinarily inventive video.

“The band is involved in their videos from start to finish, and uses the opportunity to make a visual spectacle that always prioritizes wonder over shock value. They make audiences ask questions about just how they do it. And their newest video continues to live up to the band’s reputation. Their video for ‘The Writing’s on the Wall’ is all about the art of perspective, influenced by artists like Felice Varini and Dan Tobin-Smith. It uses bright colors and different perspectives to trick the eye into thinking that things are not what they seem. And like all good music videos, it’s an interpretation of the song itself, an ode to a doomed relationship where two people keep seeing things in different ways.”

3.

"Cinemadoosti: film folklore in Iran": BFI's Ehsan Khoshbakht provides an in-depth analysis of how Iranian filmmakers have continued to reinvent cinema under "the sign of repression."

“When extremists began burning down cinemas during the revolution, and most film images connected with the West were treated as suspicious, cinephilia inevitably went underground. Cinemadoosti was considered a mode of political and artistic resistance, through cinematic disobedience. For a short time, previously banned Soviet silents and other leftist political dramas were screened owing to their revolutionary sentiments. But the post-revolutionary government soon drew up guidelines for an accepted Islamic cinema: conformist domestic productions whose banal images made no impact on the imagination, and which were screened at whatever was left of Iran’s cinemas. Home video and later digital TV and satellite were considered equally subversive. For years, people gathered secretly to watch the classics on worn VHS tapes, and bootleg copies of more recent films. Erasing vital, colourful and riotous images from individual memory wasn’t an easy task, especially in a country that in the 1960s had embraced Jerry Lewis. What helped to keep Iranian film culture alive in the first 15 years after the revolution, until the time that more doors were opened, was an oral tradition – talking about cinema.”

4.

"Animator Behind Fictional Video Game in 'Her' Announces Real-Life Release": By Alex Magdaleno of Mashable.

“The animator and designer of the fictional game, David OReilly, announced the release of his first indie game — ‘Mountain’ — at the Horizon Indie Game Conference at E3 on Thursday. Known as a ‘mountain simulator,’ OReilly explained that when players start the game, they are first asked to draw pictures based on a series of open-ended questions. Based on their answers to those questions, the game will create a unique mountain for the player to trek. These images will also affect other variables such as snowfall levels, types of vegetation and the terrain. Additional features of the game are cryptically listed on its website and include: ‘no controls, automatic save, audio on/off switch, time moves forward, things grow and things die, nature expresses itself, around 50 hours of gameplay, and once generated, you cannot be regenerated.’”

5.

"Jane Wyman and 'All That Heaven Allows'": An essay on Douglas Sirk's 1955 masterpiece, and Wyman's sublime performance as Cary Scott, written by Self-Styled Siren's Farran Smith Nehme for Criterion.com.

“At the time of filming, Wyman was at the tail end of a career-best runof films, and nearly a quarter of a century removed from any life outside show business. Yet she slips under the skin of this sheltered widow as though she too had always lived in a circumscribed world of immaculate houses, self-involved children, dull parties, and duller companions. Sirk spells out his themes with meticulous clarity, as always. But there is great subtlety in this movie, and itis in Jane Wyman’s performance. Look at the opening, after a pillar of the local country club, Sarah (Agnes Moorehead), has dropped off a large set of dishes she borrowed. Cary is struggling to getthem to her tasteful patio. Up comes her younggardener Ron (Rock Hudson) to lend a hand. Cary’s glances at him keep getting a tiny bit longer as she builds up to asking if he wants to have lunch. She pours him coffee, he sets it down and pulls out her chair. At once, there’s a change in Cary—her already lovely posture gets a touch straighter, and she does a graceful, charm-school slide into the proffered chair. And then, as she offers some rolls, Wyman locks eyes with Hudson, in a way she certainly didn’t do with Moorehead.”

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Motorcycle.com reports that Harley-Davidson will be building a production motorcycle powered by electric power, dubbed "Livewire."

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