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How the hell did John Huston and Sam Peckinpah end up in a ’70s sci-fi mind-bender about an intergalactic warrior and an alien Christ analog and their battle with a demonic 8-year old girl? That question has an answer, of course, but in the long run, it’s more fun just to enjoy the fact that they did end up in the movie.

Even better, Drafthouse Films has revived the effort, called The Visitor, and is releasing it in shiny remastered form. A trailer has been released that shows the pure dripping melted grey matter that swirls through this phantasmagoric trip, and I very much encourage you to watch it below. Read More »

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The Academy Awards for 2008 have been handed out, and the “popular kids” have Oscars on their mantles, but the dirty little secret about winning awards is that you’ve gotta campaign for them. Thousands of dollars were spent by the distributors and filmmakers behind Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight), Milk (Focus Features), The Reader (Weinstein) and other assorted winners and nominees, but not all performances received that sort of big money backing.

I am an unabashed lover of the acting craft. I see virtually every movie, large and small, that passes through the US marketplace, and, taking nothing away from Sean Penn, Kate Winslet, Penelope Cruz and Heath Ledger, not all of 2008’s best performances have been recognized. I’m not going to be obvious here. Clint Eastwood was snubbed for Gran Torino, but he received lots of acclaim for the role including being named Best Actor by the National Board of Review. My goal is to highlight 10 performances from last year that have received virtually no acclaim in the US. Many of these roles can be found in hardly-seen, under-appreciated movies that came and went without much notice. Each and every one of these movies deserve a spot in your Netflix (or Blockbuster) cue.

My list is by no means definitive. If you have a favorite performance from 2008 that sticks with you, this is a great place to tell the world. There were 20 actors nominated on Oscar night, but there is a lot of great work that hasn’t been recognized with a walk down the red carpet.

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The Dark Knight Grabs WGA and PGA Nominations

Both the Writers Guild of America (East and West) and the Producers Guild have nominated The Dark Knight as one of the best films of the year. This further solidifies The Dark Knight as a Best Picture contender, shocking some Hollywood insiders. Full list of nominations after the jump.

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The very first Oscar precursor every year is the announcement of the Gotham Independent Film Awards. It’s not a strong precursor, but sometimes the oldest and largest organization of independent filmmakers have some influence with Golden Globe and Oscar voters.

Back in 2004, Gotham voters got behind Maria Full of Grace in a big way giving its Breakthrough Actor Award to Catalina Sandino Moreno, and she landed an Academy Award nomination for her heartbreaking performance as a “drug mule.” In that same year Sideways won IFP’s Best Feature and went on to crack the Best Picture field at Oscar time. The 2005 Gotham winners for Best Feature (Capote), Breakthrough Director (Capote director Bennett Miller) and Breakthrough Actor (Amy Adams from Junebug) all became Oscar nominees. In the last 2 years, the Gothams have helped Half Nelson screenwriter Ryan Fleck, Babel actress Ringo Kikuchi and Ellen Page from Juno reach the movie industry’s biggest night.

Here are 2008’s Gotham nominees along with some analysis.
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This Week in DVD is a column that compiles all the latest info regarding new DVD releases, sales, and exclusive deals from stores including Target, Best Buy, Circuit City, and Fry’s.

The Good

30 ROCK (SEASON 2)
I plan on one day marrying Tina Fey. I don’t care that she’s already married, or that she’s twice as old as me, or that she’s a Hollywood celebrity who I’ll probably never even meet, or that she would immediately reject me even if we did meet. Things like that don’t matter when you have love on your side. And when it comes to Tina Fey, what’s not to love? She’s beautiful, smart, funny as hell, and is the creator of a knockout sitcom that only got better during its second season. The show also features Alec Baldwin in one of his best roles, and has this energetic and goofy style that plays perfectly against its biting wit. …On second thought, maybe I want to marry 30 Rock. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to settle for buying it. Season 2 consists of 15 episodes.
Blu-ray? No.
Notable Extras: A commentary (with Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan and Jack McBrayer), deleted scenes, bloopers, and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

BEST PRICE
Target Best Buy Circuit City Fry’s
$27.99 $26.99 $34.99 N/A
Amazon – $26.99

ROBOT CHICKEN (SEASON 3)
A cavalcade of ’80s and ’90s pop culture references and parodies, Robot Chicken offers exactly what you expect season after season and does so while making you laugh your ass off. Presented in a mix of clay-mation and distorted action figures, the show buzzes through sketches so fast that even if one doesn’t exactly hit its mark, you won’t have time to complain because you’ll be busy snickering at the next one. It’s the perfect viewing material for when you’re bored and have 15 minutes to kill. Season 3 consists of 20 episodes.
Blu-ray? No.
Notable Extras: Episode commentaries on all 20 episodes, video commentary, gag reel, VFX comparison, alternate audio, deleted animatics, deleted scenes, studio tour, and video blogs.

BEST PRICE
Target Best Buy Circuit City Fry’s
$19.99 $21.99 $18.99
Amazon – $21.99

THE VISITOR
Directed by Thomas McCarthy (who’s directorial debut was The Station Agent) and starring the consistently underutilized yet always recognizable Richard Jenkins, The Visitor follows a lonely professor who befriends a young couple who are illegal immigrants and have been squatting in his New York City apartment. The film received rave reviews, with the Rotten Tomatoes ranking reaching 93%, and the consensus being that the movie is a “heartfelt, humanistic drama that deftly explores identity, immigration, and other major post-9/11 issues.”
Blu-ray? Yes.
Notable Extras: A commentary (with director Thomas McCarthy and star Richard Jenkins), deleted scenes, and two featurettes (‘An Inside Look at The Visito’, ‘Playing the Djembe’).

BEST PRICE
Target Best Buy Circuit City Fry’s
$14.99 $17.99 $19.99
Amazon – $14.99

PARANOID PARK
I wish I could’ve seen Paranoid Park before the writing of this column, because despite the positive reviews the film has gotten (it holds a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes), it’s also been repeatedly referenced as being akin to some of his previous efforts, such as Gerry, Elephant, and Last Days. Now, I realize there are plenty of people who love those movies and see them as beautifully directed displays of atmosphere and artistry, but personally, I find them to be the pinnacle of pretentious filmmaking, never intending to tell a properly rounded story and always allowing shots to drag on for far too long. Because of this, I have similar reservations about Paranoid Park, although I do have to admit being intrigued by the premise (exploring a teenage skateboarder’s life after he is involved in the accidental death of a security guard).
Blu-ray? No.
Notable Extras: None.

BEST PRICE
Target Best Buy Circuit City Fry’s
N/A $14.99
Amazon – $14.99

The Average

THE SIMPSONS (SEASON 11)
As a major fan of The Simpsons, I have to admit I will still be buying the show’s 11th season on DVD, even though I know full well that this is where the series really began to go downhill. Thing is, even “weak” Simpsons is still better than a lot of other shows on TV, and there are enough decent episodes featured in the set to avoid making it a complete disappointment. All we can do now is wait for the rest of the lousy seasons to come out on DVD, until finally we get to the point where we’re getting the DVDs for when the show started to get good again. Sadly, I think it’s gonna be awhile.
Blu-ray? No.
Notable Extras: Audio commentaries, deleted scenes, an Animation Showcase, a Line From Matt Groening featurette, and a commercial.

BEST PRICE
Target Best Buy Circuit City Fry’s
$29.99 $28.99
Amazon – $29.99

YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN
(Available as single disc Original Theatrical Version, single disc Extended Version and 2-Disc Extended Version)
I have a weird love-hate relationship with Adam Sandler. I like him as an actor, and thought he did great work in Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me, but in general I dislike most of the comedies he does. You Don’t Mess with the Zohan isn’t any different, and unsurprisingly, critics were equally unfavorable toward it. Clearly though, we are not the intended audience for the film. So I’ll turn to you guys: please, say what you thought of the movie in the comments. Has Sandler still got it?
Blu-ray? Yes.
Notable Extras: The two-disc edition includes a commentary with director Dennis Dugan, deleted scenes & alternate takes, and a ton of featurettes (‘Laughing is Contagious’, ‘Disco Break’, ‘Shooting Baja for Tel Aviv’, ‘Look Who Stopped By’, ‘All American Redneck’, ‘Dugan: The Hand’s on Director’, ‘The Stunts of Zohan’, ‘Dugan Espanol?’, ‘Zohan vs. The Phantom’, ‘From Guns to Scissors’, ‘The Robot’, ‘Zohan’s Doubles’, ‘News on 3: Breaking News Reports’, ‘Getting Sticky’).

BEST PRICE
Target Best Buy Circuit City Fry’s
$16.99 $14.99
Amazon – $19.99

*Does not include 2-Disc Edition, which costs $20.99 at Fry’s and $22.99 at each of the other listed stores (and $23.99 at Amazon).

The Bad

THE HAPPENING
A smorgasbord of ill-conceived ideas, unintentionally hilarious moments and eventual dreary boredom, The Happening is a spectacular failure in every way. It’s a truly awful film, one which might’ve had a lot of promise at one point, but was quickly reduced to the expected Shyamalan trifle, further brought to the brink of awfulness courtesy of two talented actors (Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel) delivering the worst performances of their career. I blame Shyamalan for that, too.
Blu-ray? Yes.
Notable Extras: Deleted scenes (with introductions from M. Night Shyamalan), a gag reel, and behind the scenes featurettes (‘The Hard Cut’, ‘A Day for Night’, ‘Elements of a Scene’, ‘Visions of The Happening: A Making of’, ‘I Hear You Whispering’).

BEST PRICE
Target Best Buy Circuit City Fry’s
$16.99 $14.99
Amazon – $19.99

Other noteworthy DVDs available this week…
Sleeping Beauty (2-Disc Platinum Edition)How I Met Your Mother (Season 3)South Park: The Cult of CartmanPsycho (Universal Legacy Series)Vertigo (Universal Legacy Series)Rear Window (Universal Legacy Series)Touch Of Evil (50th Anniversary Edition)The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (50th Anniversary Edition)Watership Down (Deluxe Edition)Slacker UprisingHalloween (Three-Disc Unrated Collector’s Edition) (2007)Kill SwitchMartin (Season 5)Joy Ride 2: Dead AheadFeast II: Sloppy Seconds

Discuss: What are you planning to rent or buy this week?

The Specials
NOTE: Some deals may be in-store only.


Exclusive: Sleeping Beauty (2-Disc Platinum Edition) ($15.99) includes sampler DVD, which features highlights from the all-new Tinker Bell movie.

$10.00 – Office Space (Special Edition), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Extraordinarily Deluxe 3-Disc Edition), The Kingdom, and more…


Exclusive: South Park: The Cult of Cartman ($19.99) includes free Cartman figurine.

Exclusive: Sleeping Beauty (2-Disc Platinum Edition) ($14.99) includes Sleeping Beauty alarm clock.

Exclusive: Get a FREE Buffy Exclusive Bonus Disc featuring bonus content with the purchase of any Fox Sci-Fi show on DVD.
$19.99 – Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Seasons 1 – 7), Angel (Seasons 1 – 5), Dark Angel (Seasons 1 – 2)


Exclusive: Sleeping Beauty (2-Disc Platinum Edition) ($14.99) includes free Sleeping Beauty iron-on decal.

$7.49 – Silence of the Lambs (Collector’s Edition), Mr. Brooks, Live Free or Die Hard, Hitman, Death Sentence, The Hills Have Eyes, 28 Weeks Later, 28 Days Later, Donnie Darko, Click, Spanglish, Punch-Drunk Love, Anger Management, Big Daddy, Fun with Dick and Jane, Jerry Maguire, As Good As It Gets, Stripes, and more…

$3.99 – Team America, South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut, War of the Worlds, Training Day, Any Given Sunday, For Love of the Game, Blade, Cellular, Empire, Natural Born Killers, City of Angels, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (Bueller… Bueller… Edition), Airplane (“Don’t Call Me Shirley” Edition), Pretty in Pink (Everything’s Duckie Edition), School of Rock, Baseketball, and more…


$3.99 – Y Tu Mama Tambien, A Fish Called Wanda, Manhunter, Guys and Dolls, and more…

Sundance 2008 Photo Preview: Part 1 – Premieres

Sundance 2008

The line-up for the 2008 Sundance Film Festival was announced earlier this week. I just got my hands on a boat load of photos from the films in this year’s festival. We actually have too many photos to feature in just one posting, so we have divided this feature into a few parts.

Our first segment in the series takes a look at the films in the Premiere category, which includes: Assassination of a High School President, Be Kind Rewind, CSNY Deja Vu, The Deal, Death In Love, Diminished Capacity, The Escapist, The Great Buck Howard, The Guitar, Henry Poole Is Here, In Bruges, Incendiary, The Merry Gentleman, A Raisin In The Sun, Savage Grace, Sleepwalking, Smart People, Towelhead, Transsiberian, U2 3D, The Visitor, What Just Happened?, The Year of Getting To Know Us, and The Yellow Handkerchief.

Also be sure to check out our Sundance 2008 Photo Previews for the Spectrum and U.S. Dramatic Competition.

Check out the photos after the jump. Click on the images to enlarge.

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