MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

Digital Nation By Gary DretzkaDretzka@moviecitynews.com

The DVD Wrapup

Murph the Protector, Ukulele Live, Runner, Badges of Fury, Dreamworld, Godard’s Hail Mary, Killing Fields, Following and more.

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In “Oconomowoc,” living in the shadow of the ‘Wizard’ isn’t such a bad place to be

Seventy-four years ago, come this August 12, MGM executives beat a path to the Strand Theater in the tranquil lakeside town of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, to stage the first publicized showing of the final, edited version of The Wizard of Oz. Although no one is quite sure why it was chosen for the honor – perhaps, because composer Herbert Stothart and Munchkin coroner Meinhardt Raabe were local lads — it’s still recognized as one of the most exciting events in Oconomowoc history.

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TV-to-DVD Wrapup: Revenge, Homeland, 2 Girls, Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy … More

Now that the flow of TV-to-DVD compilations has grown from a trickle to a flood, it’s time for those titles to escape ghetto-status in DVD Wrapup, if only occasionally, and find their own place in the MCN world. Normally, there aren’t enough to fill a standalone column, but, rather than wait for the shows to enter the syndication market, the networks hope to boost interest in returning series and keep newcomers and fans, alike, up to date. Collections of episodes from vintage series, including next week’s “Kojak: Season Five,” make wonderful gifts for those convinced that everything has gotten worse since they turned 30. There’s even a market for shows that were canceled before completing a full season.

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A colonial dandy gets more than he bargained for in ‘Ambassador’

At first glance, you’d think that making a film documenting crime and corruption in central Africa, and exposing the underground trade in passports and other official documents, would be as difficult as fishing with hand grenades. It pretty much is, but no one told Mads Brügger that the hard part would be staying alive long enough to see it finished.

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The DVD Wrapup: Porno Gang, A Separation, Dictator, Chimpanzee, Bernie … More

Even before the collapse of the former Yugoslavia and subsequent wars for self-determination, the country’s filmmakers could be counted on to deliver closely observed tales of a society driven insane by Cold War politics and the realization that any freedoms they’ve enjoyed could disappear overnight. Now that an uneasy truce appears to have taken hold in Bosnia, Kosovo and once-disputed parts of Croatia, the savagery that marked those struggles continues to haunt the cinemas of the newly independent states.

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‘Compliance’ stirs emotions by putting viewers in hot seat

At a time when most mega-budget movies are forgotten 10 minutes after the final credits have rolled, it’s interesting that a no-frills indie has kept serious movie buffs talking since it was screened last January at Sundance. Based on a series of actual events, “Compliance” describes just how hideously wrong things can go when otherwise level-headed Americans think they’re doing the right thing.

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‘Nuit #1′ explores love, sex and despair in Montreal’s lost generation

It all happens in a flash. No sooner do Emond’s lovers kick the door of his apartment shut than they’re groping each other and striping off their clothes. The cherry is added to the sundae when Nikolai apologizes for having to ask Clara what her name is. The same thing happened in Rod Stewart’s “Stay With Me,” another song about sex without love, intimacy without passion. “There’s a lot of me in ‘Nuit #1,’ of course,” the first-time writer/director allows. “I know how it feels to be 30 and lost.”

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Suddenly, the great Swedish cop Wallander is everywhere …

If one were to judge the crime rate in Sweden strictly by the number of mysteries, you’d think it was a haven for sociopaths, drug runners and gangbangers.

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In Victorian England, good vibrations trump ‘Hysteria’ every time

All kidding aside, the prohibition on vibrators in Alabama — and, until recently, other several states – harkens to the 1920s, when a sharp-eyed publisher noticed that the same therapeutic gizmos being advertised in their periodicals were being used in stag films to accomplish paroxysms of a less clinical nature.

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Doc Proves Rumors Of Pentagram Singer’s Death Greatly Exaggerated

If Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ever decides to dedicate a wing specifically to those musicians who’ve lived the life and survived to tell their tales, several obvious candidates would emerge immediately: Keith Richards, Brian Wilson and Steven Tyler would be inducted on the first ballot; second-ballot entries might include Iggy, Sly, Ozzy, Bret, Gregg, Roky, Hank Jr. Stevie, Shane and the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd who didn’t die in the 1977 plane crash that claimed their mates. Any participant in a 12-step program with more than two near-death experiences to their credit could also apply for consideration.

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For Veterans, The Point Of No ‘Return’ Often Can Be Found At Home

Kelli, the young Ohio woman portrayed by Linda Cardellini in “Return,” joined the National Guard right after completing high school in the mid-1990s, long after it provided a safe haven for draft-eligible men who weren’t anxious to go to Vietnam to save Southeast Asia for democracy and fast-food franchises.

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Digital Nation: ‘Rescue Me’ From Uninformed Punditry About Hollywood and 9/11 …

In the lead-up to 9/11/11, two unrelated events prompted me to add my thoughts to the national conversation about one of the most disturbing and unconscionable attacks on non-combatants in history. Like most Americans, I’ve been given no deeply personal cause to obsess over the attacks. Neither do I need repeated visual reminders of the…

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Digital Nation: ‘Viva Riva!’ … think ‘Harder They Come’ in Africa

Remember the jolt of excitement you experienced watching “The Harder They Come,” “City of God” and “Amores Perros” for the first time? How raw depictions of violence, sex, corruption and poverty flowed organically from the directors’ choices of actors, locations and music, whose singularity couldn’t have been faked or synthesized? These stories may have been…

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Digital Nation: Amid the rubble, ‘Incendies’ locates heart of a woman destroyed by hate

In Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Wajdi Mouawad’s powerful stage play, “Incendies,” it’s possible to identify tragedies as ancient as the theater itself and as contemporary as the latest dispatches from Libya and Afghanistan. By chronicling the journey of a Middle Eastern woman along the ruined roads of her homeland and through a life shaped by…

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The DVD Wrapup: The King’s Speech, The Way Back, Into the Cold, Gulliver’s Travels, Kes, Sweetie, Vision …

The King’s Speech: Blu-ray When movies are made about American presidents, including those considered among the most charismatic, they tend to be wooden, factually imprecise and uninspiring. John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton may have possessed larger-than-life personalities, but their accomplishments have been deemed more worthy of treatment in small-screen mini-series and cable…

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The DVD Wrap: Country Strong, Harry Potter etc., White Material, Le Cercle Rouge, The Incredibles, Highwater, The Walking Dead Girls …

Country Strong: Blu-ray With the possible exception of her good friend, Madonna, it would be difficult to think of a more overexposed celebrity than Gwyneth Paltrow. The Kims, Chloes and GaGas of the world will continue to come and go, as long as the media pays attention to them. Madonna, Gwyneth and, even in death,…

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CinemaCon 2011: Who needs Home Premiere, when you can have hot dog sliders, gourmet licorice, ‘Puss and Boots’?

Even without the release of news about the launch of Home Premiere – Hollywood’s latest attempt to have its cake and nibble from everyone else’s plate, too – there was a portentous air surrounding last week’s inaugural CinemaCom convention. NATO members clearly enjoyed themselves during preview sessions and screenings, but the urge to count fingers…

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Digital Nation: Going Medieval for Real in ‘Black Death’

Finally, from England comes a movie that can be enjoyed by history buffs and zombie aficionados, alike. Christopher Smith and Dario Poloni’s “Black Death” recalls a time when the dead – or very near dead, anyway – haunted villages, cities and thoroughfares from China to Great Britain, awaiting their turn to be thrown into a…

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Digital Nation: In ‘Redland,’ director finds inspiration close to home

Occasionally, reporters covering the entertainment dodge discover to their surprise and delight that the story behind a movie’s story is as interesting as the film itself. It’s then that ears perk up and the likelihood of churning out yet another how-I-made-it-to-Sundance article recedes. It’s especially gratifying when the story is told by an up-and-coming filmmaker,…

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Digital Nation: ‘I Saw the Devil” … the horror, the horror

Somewhere near the top of any list of proverbs trampled into the dirt by screenwriters and their protagonists is the one that posits, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” It sounds ballsy, no matter who says it, while also alerting viewers to the ferocity of the carnage to come. After witnessing the effects of…

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Digital Nation

Quote Unquotesee all »

“The worst thing that we have in today’s movie culture is Rotten Tomatoes. It’s the destruction of our business. I have such respect and admiration for film criticism. When I was growing up film criticism was a real art. And there was intellect that went into that. And you would read Pauline’s Kael’s reviews, or some others, and that doesn’t exist anymore. Now it’s about a number. A compounded number of how many positives vs. negatives. Now it’s about, ‘What’s your Rotten Tomatoes score?’ And that’s sad, because the Rotten Tomatoes score was so low on Batman v Superman I think it put a cloud over a movie that was incredibly successful. People don’t realize what goes into making a movie like that. It’s mind-blowing. It’s just insane, it’s hurting the business, it’s getting people to not see a movie. In Middle America it’s, ‘Oh, it’s a low Rotten Tomatoes score so I’m not going to go see it because it must suck.’ But that number is an aggregate and one that nobody can figure out exactly what it means, and it’s not always correct. I’ve seen some great movies with really abysmal Rotten Tomatoes scores. What’s sad is film criticism has disappeared. It’s really sad.”
~ Brett Ratner Has A Sad

“The loss of a local newspaper critic is a real loss. People who know the local audience and know the local cultural scene are very important resources. You can’t just substitute the stuff that comes in from nowhere through syndication or the wire. I think at the same time, some of the newer outlets have really beefed up and improved their coverage and made room for criticism. The real problem is in the more specialized art forms — fine arts, classical music, dance and jazz, say. There is a real slowing of critical voices, partly because those art forms have smaller audiences. Newspapers and magazines can say that doesn’t get enough traffic, so we don’t have room for that. To me, that’s especially worrisome. This is the opposite of what newspapers are supposed to do, which is not to try to figure out what people are already interested in and recite that back to them, but to hopefully guide them to something that they should be interested in, connecting potential audiences with more interesting work.

“Then again, not everyone needs a critic. People have been going to movies for more than 100 years now, and probably the vast majority of those people have not read movie reviews or cared what critics thought. But there has always been an important subset that wants to know more, that wants to think about what they’ve seen and what they’re going to see, and wants someone to think along with. I think critics are important, not just as dispensers of consumer advice — though that’s certainly part of it, too — but as trusted voices and companions for people to argue with in your head when you’re going to movies or afterwards.”
~ A. O. Scott