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Mr. Turner

Filmmaker Mike Leigh's biography of the landscape painter J.M.W. Turner is what critics call "austere"—which means it's slow and grim and deliberately hard to love—yet…

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Annie

The new version of "Annie" is fashionably artificial and not very well directed, but its unabashed good cheer is very welcome.

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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 7/1/14

1.

"Whitney Houston biopic director Angela Bassett talks": A great interview with the long-undervalued actress-turned-filmmaker about her upcoming project, conducted by Nina Terrero of Entertainment Weekly.

“I did not think about casting [Bobbi Kristina as Whitney]. And probably for a number of reasons, you know. One being that she's not an actress. I know she's acted here and there. I know she's been on their family's reality show, but she's not an actress and acting is a craft. It's an attempt to illuminate the complexities of human behavior and life. And this is a very fast-paced schedule; we have just 21 days to tell this story. It's more than just saying lines and turning the light on. You have to drive the story—there's a technical aspect.”

2.

"The Real Threat to Independent Film": The New Yorker's Richard Brody argues that the critically maligned "Transformers" franchise is not the threat many have claimed it to be.

“Of course, in the sway of emotion, it’s hard to resist praise or blame, as well as superlatives of all sorts, when I find a movie exceptionally good or bad. Those markers serve a good practical purpose, simply to exhort readers not to miss a movie that might otherwise pass unnoticed or to caution them not to yield to the hype, even when it comes from other critics. But I never think that it’s unfortunate or a waste of time for a viewer to see a movie that I think is bad. The more viewing, the merrier; trust but verify. In any case, that’s why the binary scale of good and bad, like and dislike, is essentially pointless. Movies are complex experiences—even those that are simplistic or clumsily made are rich in substance—and sometimes criticism is like the science of medicine, with advances coming from diagnoses of some dread disease that you wouldn’t want to have. No, ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ isn’t a model of enlightened thought or cinematic style, but it is—paradoxically, for a movie that’s filled with computer-generated robots—peculiarly alive, animated not by computers but by the character of its director, Michael Bay, for better and for worse.”

3.

"Edge of Darkness - 1985 miniseries more intriguing than football": Graeme Virtue of The Guardian praises BBC4's decision to re-air the "brooding, quietly bonkers" miniseries.

“If you haven't yet seen ‘Edge of Darkness,’ this is the perfect chance to wade into its treacherous psychological and philosophical depths, and drink in the performance of the late Bob Peck. Probably still best known as raptor-rustling game warden Robert ‘Clever Girl’ Muldoon in ‘Jurassic Park,’ Peck is absolutely mesmerising as Craven, a brusque, plainspoken CID detective whose world is upended when his daughter Emma (Whalley) is killed in a violent shotgun ambush. Investigating her death takes Craven from Yorkshire to London and beyond as he doggedly tugs at the threads of a malevolent international conspiracy that also dredges up his own ambiguous past. It's an intense and unsettling portrait of a man so grief-stricken that he hallucinates talking to his daughter's ghost yet so implacably driven that he unnerves both his superiors and his shadowy enemies.”

4.

"The Niles Files: Remembrances of Matinees Past": Niles Schwartz of L'étoile Magazine analyzes our collective need to memorialize nostalgia in light of recent tributes to Tim Burton's "Batman."

“‘Batman’ was an integral part of a specific generation’s growing up, and maybe another generation’s growing old (in 1990, Francis Ford Coppola complained how great filmmakers couldn’t get a movie made while ‘Batman’’s producers, Jon Peters and Peter Guber, were given carte blanche–though the subsequent results were things like ‘Bonfire of the Vanities,’ ‘Hudson Hawk,’ and ‘Last Action Hero’). The issue is “anniversary writing,” really specific to the decades of the ’80s and ’90s, which has been incessant: ‘Speed,’ ‘Forrest Gump,’ Purple Rain’ in just the last couple of weeks. Even trash is given laurels, with pieces memorializing ‘Troop Beverly Hill’ and the original ‘Police Academy.’ The coming year will surely have some words of complimentary retrospect for 20-year-olds ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘Pulp Fiction,’ 30-year-olds ‘Amadeus’ and ‘The Killing Fields,’ and then 40 years of ‘The Godfather Part II,’ ‘Chinatown,’ and ‘Young Frankenstein.’ On the other hand, I’m not really sure if a silver 25 plaque will be handed down by struggling film writers to ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’ You might have to pay us.”

5.

"The 7 Most Wonderful Things Chaz Ebert Said About Roger Ebert At a 'Life Itself' Screening": Indiewire's Casey Cipriani reports from a screening of the Steve James documentary at New York's Museum of the Moving Image.

"Roger was always an early adapter of technology, but he resisted going on Twitter or Facebook for some reason, I don't know why. So I kept after him. 'Roger you must join Twitter, you should!' And he said, 'No! Twitter is for twits. I'm a real writer, I can't be limited to 140 characters.' And of course once he joined Twitter he became the king of Twitter. He used to tweet like a teenager. Then he'd look to see how many followers he had, it was 10,000 and then 20,000. Around the time he got up to 800,000 he was like, 'Wow this is OK!' Later he did say that if he didn't have social media and his blogs as an outlet when he lost his physical voice, he probably would have died insane. Because he had all of these ideas churning around. And Roger not only wanted to express his ides, he was a communicator, and it was important to him that there be a two way communication. He didn't want to just send something out one way. He really liked giving things back for people. So I just really thank anyone who ever really communicated with him.”

Image of the Day

Part I of The Dissolve's list ranking The 50 Greatest Summer Blockbusters, including David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker's 1980 laugh riot, "Airplane!"

Video of the Day

RogerEbert.com Editor-In-Chief Matt Zoller Seitz's wonderfully written and edited 2009 video essay on Spike Lee's 1989 masterpiece, "Do the Right Thing."

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