Posts Tagged ‘A Prophet’

Wilmington on DVDs: Sweetgrass, A Prophet, Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music, The Ghost Writer … and more

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

CO-PICKS OF THE WEEK: NEW

Sweetgrass (Four Stars)
U.S.; Lucien Castaing-Taylor/Ilisa Barbash, 2010 (Cinema Guild)

In Sweetgrass, named for the lushly beautiful Montana country in which it takes place, we see the last summer pasturing of the vast sheep herd that once belonged to the Allested ranch in Big Timber: thousands of sheep blanketing the mountain slopes and valleys, bleating, baa-ing and clanging their cowbells like some grand atonal choir, ranging freely over the green grass and past the rushing rivers and under the high blue sky, surging like some white snowy river itself, with that entire tumbling, rippling, slowly moving mass of animal life itself cared for and guided by just two lone sheepmen in cowboy hats on horseback, with their alert and tireless sheep dogs loping alongside.

This stunning event was recorded by Lucien Castaing-Taylor (“recordist” or, I guess, cinematographer-director-editor) and Ilisa Barbash (producer), a husband-wife ethnographic filmmaking team then resident in Boulder, Colorado and now based at Harvard University. It was the last of its kind, because the Allested Ranch closed down in 2006, when Bush administration bureaucrats cancelled the public land grazing permit that the Allesteds and other independent ranchers had used for more than a century to feed their herds.

So what we see, though it isn’t explained until the end titles, is the end of a way of life — another wondrous American ritual and tradition, largely lost to the contemporary world.

As with Frederick Wiseman’s great socio-political documentaries, such as High School, Welfare and The Titicut Follies, there is no voice-over or narration. There’s precious little talk at all, and most of it comes from sheepmen John Ahern and Pat Connolly, who plan their work and gab laconically, or cuss something fierce, as they ride, or as they sip coffee and chew bacon, or just laze around and ruminate, in their camp chairs or by the fire.

Often they complain. But we can’t. They’re burdened by each day/s work, which looks endless. We’re blessedly privy to the beauties of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, and that huge woolly cloud of sheep. As in King Kong directors Merian Cooper’s and Ernest Schoedsack’s great 1925 documentary Grass, a movie which watched another group in a more distant land, the Bakhityari or Persian tribesmen, taking their herds to pasture, we‘re absorbed by the spectacle and by the journey before us: with the sheep moving like a great white wave grazing uphill and down, as the sheepmen try to protect them (vainly in one instance) from marauding grizzlies and wolverines, as mothers suckle their young, and dogs run and nudge, as the season passes, and as we see what only a relative handful have watched before this.

Critics have generally loved this film — and they’re right — but Sweetgrass is unfortunately the kind of movie that would-be wits denounce because they say nothing is happening, that it‘s like watching paint dry. Or sheep graze. Nothing is happening? What in God‘s name were they looking at in the theatre? Their watches? Their navels?

Thanks be to the filmmakers for undertaking this journey, which took them two years (2001-2003) to record and eight in all to get on film and in theatres. We are in their debt, and also in that of the Allesteds and of sheepmen Ahern and Connolly (and hell yes, of the horses, dogs and the sheep herd as well), for the lyrical sights and uncommon beauties of Sweetgrass. At the end, crusty John Ahern, riding in a truck cab, is asked by his boss Allested what he’ll do next, and he replies that he “ain’t going to worry about it for a week or two.” You think: Well, that’s okay, get some shut-eye. You earned it. Goodbye, sheep. Adios, amigos. Extras: Commentary by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Ilisa Barbash; Additional Scenes; Trailer; Booklet with Robert Koehler essay.

A Prophet (Three and a Half Stars)
France; Jacques Audiard, 2009 (Sony Pictures Classics)

The Grand Prize winner at the last Cannes Film Festival, this brutal, unsparing prison picture, about the rise of a young Muslim convict who becomes the favorite of the prison‘s Corsican mob boss, has been widely hailed as a great foreign language film and a great crime movie.

Whoa. Not quite, says me. It’s certainly a riveting show, and it has an undeniably great performance by Nils Arestrup as the Corsican mobster Cesar Luciani (the kind of dour gangster role for which Lino Ventura once held the patent), and a magnetic one by newcomer Tahar Rahim as the rising Muslim assistant crook Malik El Djebena.

SPOILER ALERT

But, on first glance, I disliked the ending, which almost seems to secretly glorify the young thug, for no better reason than that he’s an improvement on the old thug, and to overly admire what I took  as a possibly equivocal and darkly ambiguous resolution as some kind of stirring “star-is-born” multi-cultural parable.

Maybe I’m wrong. Director-co-writer Jacques Audiard says that A Prophet is an anti-Scarface, and in some ways, he’s right. But the De Palma/Pacino 1983 Scarface, whatever the uses that some gangsta-rappers made of it, does say that crime shouldn‘t pay, and clearly shows why, as did the superb 1932 original Scarface by Howard Hawks, Ben Hecht and Paul Muni.

END OF SPOILER.

I’m not completely sure what A Prophet. But Audiard, here and in A Self Made Hero (with Mathieu Kassovitz) and The Beat that My Heart Skipped (with Romain Duris), seems to have a soft spot of some kind for psychopathic anti-heroes, or maybe to him, psychopathic heroes, as long as they’re cute, intense star material.

That doesn’t invalidate the film, or Audiard’s grim vision, or Rahim’s often incredible performance. But it makes the movie, to me at least, less powerful and satisfying than those two recent fact-based movies about Italian organized crime, Il Divo and Gomorrah. A Prophet, by contrast, seems to me at least partially a wish fulfillment fantasy. If so, it’s a wish I didn’t particularly like to see fulfilled, at least not without more criticism.

But A Prophet, whatever my cavils, gets you on the hook and keeps you there. It summons up a prison and criminal world that, up until the end, I found grimly plausible, fiercely exciting.  It also boasts that Arestrup performance, which is an absolute knockout. (In French, with English subtitles.)

PICK OF THE WEEK: CLASSICS

Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music — The Director’s Cut (Four Stars)
U.S.; Michael Wadleigh, 1970-1994    (Warner)Both a great rock concert movie, and a superb  documentary on youth culture in the Vietnam War Years, Michael Wadleigh’s Woodstock — shot at the legendary 1969 Aquarian gathering at Max Yasgur‘s farm at Bethel, N. Y. (not the nearby Woodstock) –brings back the era and all its pot-fumed tenderness, horror, humor, beauty, ugliness, and glorious absurdities, as few other movies can.Caught by the virtuoso wide-angle cameraman Wadleigh (along with many others) in  amazing handheld widescreen images full of sweep and scope and seething with energy, and cut by editor/assistant director Martin Scorsese (and others) in vividly atmospheric sequences and evocative, witty split screen juxtapositions, the movie literally overwhelms youThe original three day concert — which wound up being one of rock history’s great freebies, when the crowds, measuring a half million plus, overflowed the ability to count or charge them ticket money — is rendered with shocking, lyrical immediacy. Woodstock records both the amazing social extravaganza surrounding the music — the gargantuan  sex-drugs-and-rock-n’-roll community that descended on Yasgur’s green farm fields, the bad trips and free food, the marijuana, nude romps and ubiquitous flashing peace signs, the ocean of communal feeling and occasional bummers — and, of course, the memorable music itself.David Gates’ dyspeptic Time Magazine anniversary cover story about Woodstock (a few years ago) to the contrary, it was a terrific concert. (Gates seems angry not only at ‘60s youth culture in general, but that acts like Merle Haggard weren’t on the bill. But you wouldn’t expect the bard of “Okie from Muskogee” to have shown up in 1969  at Bethel,  even if today, Haggard cheerfully will shares a show with peacenik Bob Dylan.)The original roster of acts in the 1970 movie included Crosby, Stills and Nash (ladling out, among others, Steve Stills’s honeyed lyric to Judy Collins, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” plus, under the closing credits, Joni Mitchell‘s soaring anthem to the whole affair “Woodstock“), along with Jefferson Airplane, The Who (“See Me, Feel Me“ the mesmerizing capper from “Tommy“), Richie Havens (the heartbreaking folk ballad “Motherless Child”), Joan Baez ( a hushed, reverent “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”), Santana (the fever-drenched “Black Magic Woman”), Sly and the Family Stone (Taking us “Higher,” if possible), Joe Cocker (tearing out his classic version of “A Little Help from My Friends”) and, as a blazing climax, guitar god Jimi Hendrix, with his legendary exploding variations on “The Star Spangled Banner,” complete with sonic Hendrix booms on “rockets red glare” and “bombs bursting in air.”Over the years, Woodstock has picked up even more initially deleted musical high points, some not used in the original cut because of lesser picture quality (they were shot at night), like blues lady Janis Joplin‘s frenzied “Work Me, Lord”) and, in the extras here, three performances by Creedence Clearwater Revival (including “Born on the Bayou”). and one by the Grateful Dead (“Turn on Your Love Light”).

Throughout, either in the epic original and this expanded director‘s cut, Woodstock beautifully records both the amazing social extravaganza surrounding the music — the gargantuan  sex-drugs-and-rock-n’-roll community that descended on Yasgur’s green farm fields, the bad trips and free food, the marijuana, nude romps and ubiquitous flashing peace signs, the ocean of communal feeling and occasional bummers — and, of course, the memorable music itself. Peace.

Extras: Deleted performances (Baez, Country Joe & The Fish, Santana, The Who, Joe Cocker, Mountain, Canned Heat, Paul Butterfield, Sha Na Na); featurettes, documentary.

PICK OF THE WEEK: Blu-ray

The Ghost Writer (1 Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (Three Stars)
U.S.-U.K.; Roman Polanski, 2009 (Summit Entertainment)

Shutter Island is a movie Roman Polanski probably should have made, just as, for different reasons, Schindler‘s List was.  (He got a second great chance at Schindler’s subject matter, and triumphed with it, in The Pianist.) But Island is even more his kind of movie than Scorsese’s: a descent into subjective terror that fits Polanski’s eye-level nightmare style perfectly, a movie that might even be described as a mix of the elements of his masterpieces Repulsion (the crazy killer), Cul-de-Sac (the island) and Chinatown (the detective and the scandal).

The Ghost Writer is the movie Polanski did make: an adaptation of  Robert Harris’ prize-winning thriller The Ghost about an opportunistic (and nameless) young writer (Ewan McGregor) brought to an isolated retreat on Martha’s Vineyard, and hired to ghost-write the autobiography of a retired Tony Blair-like British Prime Minister named Adam Lang (played with 007-like machismo and insouciance by Pierce Brosnan), while trying to fathom what’s up with Lang’s wife (Olivia Williams), his assistant (Kim Cattrall), a mysterious political rival named Emmett (Tom Wilkinson) and a gabby old man (Eli Wallach).

Based on the movie, The Ghost doesn’t seem like a very good novel. The film didn’t seize my imagination or chill my blood as I wanted it too, even though I was primed for it, and even though Polanski directs it beautifully, visualizing each scene with an edgy, icy-gray or chilly-blue bleak atmosphere and a sense of underlying evil and panic. But Polanski is a master, and evidences of his mastery are all over the movie.

I once transcribed a Polanski interview, in which I thought he was saying to me that the two most important thing in movies were “characters and utmost fear,“ when what he was really saying, was  “characters and atmosphere.“ He gets at least two of those three here: atmosphere and utmost fear. But though the actors are good, none of the characters (not even the usually movie-stealing Wilkinson’s) is very memorable. And it’s hard to empathize with a character in a thriller, like McGregor’s Ghost, who shows so little fear, with so much danger and enigma around.

The Ghost may be a good writer, but he doesn’t seem to have read much John Grisham or watched Three Days of the Condor. The fact that Lang has been linked to a CIA scandal doesn’t seem to phase him. Neither does the coincidence of his predecessor being drowned in the first scene, nor any of the mysterious things that happen along the way.  Maybe the fact that the writer remains nameless has made him think himself invulnerable, already a ghost of himself.

Anyway, Polanski may be a captured fugitive, but he’s no fake, even if The Ghost Writer sometimes feels a little as if it were ghost-written. It’s been decades since Pauline Kael suggested that Polanski might become the new Hitchcock (at least before Truffaut did), yet this is his first thriller since Frantic in 1988. He’s capable of better in the genre; he’s capable of masterpieces. I hope he does them.

Extras: Interview with Polanski; Featurettes.

James and the Giant Peach (2 Disc Blu-ray DVD Combo) (Three and a Half Stars)
U.S.; Henry Selick, 1996 (Walt Disney)

British writer Roald Dahl started out was a specialist in the adult and macabre, crafting witty little literary gems of crime, sex and suspense for class markets. (Playboy often ran them, and Alfred Hitchcock often adapted them for his TV show.) Then he switched to children’s stories, jettisoning the sex, adding more whimsy and fantasy to the suspense, and coming up with modern classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (filmed twice, first by Gene “Willy Wonka” Wilder and later by Tim Burton), and this juicy little tale of voyage and adventure, filmed by Burton (the producer) and Henry Selick: the team behind The Nightmare Before Christmas.

It’s an odd, sophisticated, beguilingly weird and somewhat creepy tale of an orphan boy named James (Paul Terry)* who escapes from his two awful aunts, Sponge and Spiker (Miriam Margolyes and Joanna Lumley), when a giant peach shows up, and grows up, on their coastal hillside home, filled with genial giant talking bugs, and then sails off toward New York City, land of James’s dreams.

The film, done in Selick‘s sprightly stop-motion animation style, begins somewhat murkily and nightmarishly, then really takes off when the boy and the bugs sail away. The look is bewitching and the cast is swell: including Susan Sarandon (see below, with Tim Robbins) as the seductive Spider, Simon Callow as the posh-voiced Grasshopper, Richard Dreyfuss as the streetwise Centipede, Jane Leeves as the matronly Ladybug, and David Thewlis as the Naked earthworm. Dahl’s stories are for children of course. But, like Edward Gorey‘s, they probably have their strongest admirers among adults. Here‘s an example.

Extras: Featurettes.
* No relation to the cartoonist of Terrytoons.

PICK OF THE WEEK: Blu-ray

The Kim Novak Collection (Three and a Half Stars)
U.S.: Various Directors, 1955-59 (Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures)

My favorite Kim Novak line comes in Pal Joey, Columbia‘s dubiously altered, shamefully bowdlerized but still entertaining adaptation of the great cynical/lyrical O’Hara, Rodgers & Hart stage musical classic, in which Novak’s Linda English says to Frank Sinatra’s cabaret Casanova Joey Evans, in a girlish, amused, deliberately non-provocative voice, with no Mae West intonations or hints at all, “You‘re right. I do have a great shape. Confidentially, I‘m stacked.”

Stacked she certainly was: a willowy but sumptuous blonde bombshell with (usually) short-cropped platinum hair and a 37“ bosom that never knew a brassiere (“That‘s right!“ her Vertigo director Alfred Hitchcock once said tartly to Francois Truffaut. “She‘s particularly proud of that!”)

Pretty Novak, born in 1933, was a Chicago railroad worker‘s daughter and a natural beauty with haunting eyes and a vulnerable air, who became a movie star in her early twenties, with 1954‘s noir Pushover directed by her lover Richard Quine, and then a megastar with 1955‘s Picnic, directed by the explosive Joshua Logan, in which — as playwright William Inge’s small town Kansas princess Madge, with George Duning’s Theme from Picnic glowing behind her — Novak danced her way into the hearts and loins of William Holden‘s ex-football star/drifter Hal, and many more of the males of a susceptible nation.

The great years of her stardom, the mid to late ’50s,  are well-covered here. These movies give you the classic Novak image: a gorgeous fair-haired girl who’s a little troubled by her own long-legged, statuesque beauty, a bit hesitant about pushing herself forward, slinky and self-conscious, sometimes suspicious of men, a traffic-stopping but vulnerable glamour girl with brains and surprising sensitivity.

Like Marilyn Monroe, who often played it dumb, the real-life Novak was a reader. (Sinatra, one of her dates, wooed her with first editions, while his fellow Clansman Sammy Davis, Jr. hit the jackpot in one of the more famous secret love affairs of the ‘50s.) There’s a very well-written sleeper in this box, which you probably haven’t seen, but contains top-notch New York dialogue and one of her best performances: writer Paddy Chayefsky‘s and director Delbert Mann‘s Middle of the Night.

By 1964, she was considered past her prime, and when she played Polly the Pistol, the girlish hooker (with the belly-button jewel and the requisite heart of gold) in Billy Wilder‘s Kiss Me, Stupid, she shared in the movie‘s lousy notices. Today Kiss Me is rightly regarded as a flawed classic, and if original star Peter Sellers hadn’t had his heart attack and dropped out in mid shooting, we might see it as  a masterpiece, as some of the French do (“Embrasse-moi, Idiote!“)

But maybe she was too much a creation of the ‘50s, of the last fugitive years of the Golden Age, a kind of platinum blonde Jekyll and Hyde. Kim Novak could play it naïve and lower class, or tony and glamorous, and sometimes she played both in the same movie, as in her masterpiece, as Madeleine/Judy  in Hitchcock’s Vertigo. (He‘d wanted Grace Kelly for her part, but Hitch always wanted Grace Kelly, for every part.) Vertigo, of course, is in lots of Hitchcock Paramount or Universal sets. But it’s a shame Columbia couldn‘t cut a deal and get it in this one. What’s a Kim Novak collection without Vertigo?

She probably wasn’t a natural actress. She gave some awkward performances. But she was a natural-born star. Kim was one of the movie dream girls of my youth, and I still get a pang looking at her. Confidentially, she‘s stacked.

Includes: Picnic (U.S.; Joshua Logan, 1955)  Three and a Half Stars. William Inge‘s great Broadway dramatic hit about the way sex steams up in a small Kansas town at the annual picnic, with Novak as the town siren, William Holden as the drifter who steals her from his best friend (Cliff Robertson in the role the young Paul Newman played on Broadway), Betty Field as Kim‘s mother and Susan Strasberg as her little sister, who loves Carson McCullers, Rosalind Russell as the busybody schoolteacher whose aging beau, Arthur O’Connell, is marriage-shy. The stage play, which was also directed by Josh Logan, had a great ensemble cast — Janice Rule, Ralph Meeker, Eileen Heckart, Kim Stanley (understudied by Newman’s gal, Joanne Woodward), and O‘Connell. But there’s something iconic about this one, and something iconic and ultra-50ish about both Kim and the movie.

Jeanne Eagels (U.S.; George Sidney, 1957)  Two and a Half Stars. Novak plays the reckless, self-destructive ‘20s stage and screen beauty and superstar Jeanne Eagels, who made an onstage hurricane as Sadie Thompson in the Maugham play Rain, — a drama-goddess who drank and screwed and missed so many performances she was banned by Actors’ Equity, and died of a heroin overdose. It’s a tough part and not one of Novak’s real successes. But she had guts playing this brilliant talent and  bad girl.

Jeff Chandler is her Coney Island mentor/lover, Agnes Moorehead is her haughty teacher, and Murray Hamilton is the sleazy guy who helps push her over the edge. Sidney and cinematographer Robert Planck make it brassy and glamorous, there’s an allusion to director Frank Borzage, and a great trio of writers worked on the script: prolific Oscar-winner Sonya Levien (Quo Vadis, Drums Along the Mohawk) and those two excellent novelists Daniel Fuchs (Low Company) and John Fante (Ask the Dust).

Pal Joey (U.S.; Sidney, 1957)  Three Stars. Gene Kelly became a Broadway star, beckoned by the movies, when he playing the amoral, lady-killing show biz heel and kept man Joey Evans in the great musical play by writer John O‘Hara and the supreme song-writing team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.  And Kelly was promised the movie and the role, with Rita Hayworth as his star, in the ‘40s by Columbia boss Harry Cohn. But in the ‘50s, when the movie was finally made, it was Gene‘s pal and ex “In the town” dance partner Frank Sinatra who got the move call for Joey. And though the film is regarded as  famously botched adaptation, it’s not really Sinatra’s fault, he sings the songs here as well as Kelly danced them, on stage.

This is actually one of Frank’s quintessential movie roles, full of Sinatra-isms like “gasser,” and “ring-a-ding,” with added songs by Rodgers and Hart, and with orchestrations by the unbeatable Nelson Riddle — Sinatra’s genius arranger on “Only the Lonely,“ “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,“ and many other classic albums, including all of Ella Fitzgerald’s George Gershwin Songbooks. Frank spins a real gasser on “Lady in the Tramp” (it’s worth the whole movie), and he also kills us on “I Could Write a Book,” and ”There’s a Small Hotel,” while the dubbed Rita Hayworth as the socialite Vera, who’s keeping Joey, delivers “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and true love/non-stripper Kim‘s dubber sings that poignant gem “My Funny Valentine.”

What the movie needs is even more Frank, even more Rodgers & Hart, packaged by Riddle. It also may have needed Billy Wilder, whom that famous bully Harry Cohn turned down as director. The problem was the script, which Billy would have fixed, but which certainly baffled Dorothy Kingsley. It was the ‘50s and the goddamned Breen office was still fouling up movies in the name of our morals. But a moralistic “Pal Joey” is like squeezing Mae West into a nun’s habit. Even so, Sinatra, “The Voice,”  singing “The Lady is a Tramp“ is enough to obliterate all bad, or goody-two shoes, memories.

Bell, Book and Candle (U.S.; Richard Quine, 1958)  Three Stars. Novak rejoins Jimmy Stewart in the same year as Vertigo playing Gillian Holroyd, lady witch and classy Greenwich Village shop-owner who has a cat named Pyewackett, and who utterly bewitches, bothers and bewilders Manhattan publisher Shep Henderson (Stewart) in this swanky adaptation of playwright John van Druten’s spooky romantic comedy, directed by ex-beau Quine. Novak ‘s fellow witches include those sometimes macabre, sometimes playful ladies Elsa Lanchester (Queenie) and Hermione Gingold (Bianca), Ernie Kovacs is a great drunken writer (on witchcraft) named Sidney Redlitch, Janice Rule (who played Novak‘s Picnic role on stage) is Jimmy‘s luckless fiancée Merle, and  Jack Lemmon, no less, is a grinning, streetlamp-quenching delight as Gillian’s impish brother, the bongo-playing warlock Nicky.

Witchcraft here is obviously a code or analogue for ‘50s Bohemianism and the Greenwich Village bi and homosexual counter-culture, and the witches all hang out in a hip club called the Zodiac. Bell has some of the look and feel, if not the richness and impact of a classic. It just misses, and I guess I wouldn’t have hired Daniel Taradash (Picnic‘s adaptor) for this script. Maybe they needed Billy Wilder for this one too. But you can’t beat that cast. Or that cat. Or that hat of Shep’s, symbol of a bewitched heart, that we see soaring and falling all the way from the skyscraper to the street.

Middle of the Night (U.S.; Delbert Mann, 1959)  Three Stars.  As interviewer Steve Rebello remarks, this is the sleeper of the set. Novak in her prime often had good screenwriters or sources, and here she has the best script (excepting Vertigo) she was ever given: Paddy Chayefsky‘s April-December romance Middle of the Night — done on TV with Eva Marie Saint and E G. Marshall, done on Broadway with Gena Rowlands and Edward G. Robinson, and done here with Novak and Fredric March. March is the affluent garment maker/widower who takes a good look at his secretary (Novak) one day and stumbles into heaven  and hell. The script, like Marty, is both crackling and compassionate, and the supporting cast includes Lee Grant (as Novak‘s savvy friend), Albert Dekker (as March’s girl-chasing partner), Glenda Farrell (as Novak‘s skeptical mother) and Martin Balsam as March’s sympathetic son-in law. The movie has that great ‘50s-’60s look: New York City in black and white. But it didn’t work with audiences, and it’s a shame.

Extras: Interviews and commentaries with Kim Novak and Stephen Rebello; Featurettes; Trailers.

OTHER CURRENT AND RECENT DVD RELEASES

Kick-Ass (Two Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (Three Stars)
U.S.; Matthew Vaughn, 2010 (Lionsgate)

Kick-Ass is a movie made from a comic book about a wish-fulfilling teen geek who plays at being a super-hero named Kick-Ass, and then runs into some real heroes (including a wildly talented purple-haired 11-year-old nicknamed Hit Girl, and her death-dealing pa, Big Daddy) and some real villains (including a vicious mob boss and his spoiled-rotten son). Though it may sound as if the Farrelly Brothers or Judd Apatow wannabes had taken over the latest  action-comic picture epic, it’s better than we might have expected: at its best,  expertly done and full of snazzy, kick-ass, wish-fulfilling fun.

Director Matthew Vaughn, Guy Richie‘s ex-producer (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) and helmer of the British neo-noir Layer Cake, shows the same mix of slam-bang action and a genial light touch that director Jon Favreau brought to Iron Man. Vaughn and his co-writer Jane Goldman (adapting the comic by Mark Millar), know what their  basic audience wants to see. But they also know what audiences not usually attracted to this kind of movie may want to see as well: something witty and light and self-kidding, with the humor counter-balancing the carnage.

Of course, the carnage needs to be counter-balanced. Kick-Ass is funny. But it’s also so violent, and sometimes so convincingly bloody and savage, in its half-comic over-the-top action scenes — which include the kind of one-against-a-bunch climactic wholesale slaughter-fest usually administered by a Bruce Lee or a Sonny Chiba, but here dealt out by that 11-year-old girl —  that, at times, this movie becomes genuinely disturbing. (Parents should heed that “R” rating, which mentions “strong brutal violence, pervasive language, sexual content and nudity.”) Still, I can’t go along with the stern or skittish condemnations the show has aroused in some. That wounding violence, especially in a revenge fantasy, strikes me as not necessarily such a negative thing. Movie violence often should be more disturbing, should  have consequences.

And here, when high school geek Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) goes on his first costumed Kick-Ass expedition, and gets stomped by gang-bangers (well and half-realistically played by Johnny Hopkins and Ohene Cornelius) and run over by a car — winding up with nerve damage for the rest of the movie — it reminds us that violence hurts, that the world is full of pain, which is something that big action movies often leave out. That hurt gives more edge to the movie’s action, and also to its humor and satire, to the ways it burlesques and sends up the geek fantasies of vigilante-ism and super-celebrity that fuel almost every action-hero movie.

The fact that Kick-Ass starts life as a media-friendly geek-imagined fake, that the real super-heroine here is a cute little girl named Mindy Macready (played by Chloe Grace Moretz),  incredibly well-versed in martial arts and gunplay by her action-hero dad Damon (“Big Daddy”) Macready (Nicolas Cage), makes the movie more fantastic, less half-real. It’s also a riff on the gun culture that permeates our society, with presidential hopeful Sarah Palin (a kind of wannabe Hit Girl, but not as cute) smiling adorably while she calls on her followers to get their enemies in their sights and “reload.“

Wham! Bang! Thank you, Ma’am! In our introduction to this movie’s Hit Girl and Big Daddy, Mr. Macready reloads just like Sarah and her fan-boy militia. He aims and shoots his daughter from point blank range, then watches her bounce up, protected by body armor. Later Mindy kids Papa by requesting a pony for her birthday, when what she really wants are Palinesque weapons of destruction. Pony, my ass! The satire, deliberately profane,  kids our own gun-nutty cultural callousness. But the vulnerability of the movie’s good guys, and girl, facing a smash-face violence that often hits OldBoy levels, lets some reality seep back in. It keeps us anxious.

I haven’t read the Kick-Ass comics, written and drawn by Millar and John Romita, Jr.  (My own super-hero comic-reading heyday included Superman and Batman, and ended around the prime time of Johnny, Jr’s Daredevil-Spider-Man drawing dad Jazzy Johnny Romita, Sr.) But the story structure of the movie Kick-Ass reminds us that in the most popular super-hero fantasies, Clark Kent and Peter Parker are just as important as Superman and Spider-Man. Here the early scenes pivot around the ineffable nerdiness of Dave and his geek buddies, smart-ass Marty (Clark Duke) and Todd (Evan Peters), and by way Dave is ignored by the school’s top girl, Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca), and kept away from fraternization with the Mafia rich kid Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) — and how Dave evades his parents (Garrett H. Brown and Elizabeth McGovern) to create the fantasy world of the masked, costumed, swaggering Kick-Ass, a multi-colored human action toy who’s exactly the kind of superhero a geeky kid would dream up.

Revenge fantasies are popular partly because they blow way our frustrations, and because the real world actually is full of bad guys and gang-bangers who really do hurt people. Crime boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), and his squad of torpedoes led by WiseGuy Big Joe (Michael Rispoli), are heavies with a touch of real-life viciousness (or at least reality filtered through other mob movies and TV shows) — and when some of those heavies go down like video-game targets, it’s hard to mind, especially when the vanquishing kick-asses are a nerd in a super-hero suit and a little girl with purple hair and lots of energy. Kick-Ass pushes our movie paradigms and clichés of violence and worm-turning to extremes, and whether you laugh at it, or go “Tsk-tsk,” probably depends on your own frustration-level. It made me laugh and sometimes cringe.

Extras: Commentary with Matthew Vaughn; Documentary; Featurettes; Live Menu System.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Also 3 Disc Blu-Ray) (Two and a Half Stars)
U.S.; Thor Freudenthal, 2010 (20th Century Fox)

This one is better than it first looks — and it initially looks pretty silly, despite the source.

That source: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a best-selling children‘s book by Jeff Kinney, written in the form of a diary by a supposedly actual wimpy kid, Greg Heffley (Zach Gordon), who’s suffering through the torments of middle school (Grades 6-8).

This wimpy kid is the Job of junior high, a sort of Coen-Brothersish “Serious Boy.” He’s picked on by classmates and older thugs, dissed by his teachers, shut out of a seat at the cafeteria, abandoned by his friend, pestered by guys even dorkier and wimpier than he, teased by the school paper editor, joshed by his parents, bullied by his gym teacher, out-wrestled by a female nemesis and ignored by the prettier girls. To top it all off, he‘s a bit of a jerk himself: an unreliable friend and a little liar.

Waiting for him and us throughout the movie is a joke we really don’t want to see: involving an open-face cheese sandwich, rotting and festering away, and  going greenish-nauseating, right in the middle of the outdoor playground basketball court. It’s a sandwich that nobody ever moves (don’t they ever play hoops at that school?) and we know that someone, somehow, somewhere, is probably going to have to eat it. Or seem to eat it. (“Eat it raw!“ as the bullies used to scream, back when I was in junior high.) Luckily, it doesn’t look anything like  real food.

Any more than this movie looks anything like a real middle school, or a real suburb. What saves all this school-kid angst, done in high-Spielbergian exaggerated style by Thor Freudenthal (who made the visually inventive but mostly awful Hotel for Dogs)?  The actors, mostly. Gordon as the “wimpy kid” diarist Greg and Robert Capron as his plump, sweet tempered best friend Rowley Jefferson, are so cute, so easy and adept, and so consistently funny, that they  redeem a lot of the movie’s sprightly, but over-cute and over-obvious comedy.

Gordon has a gravity and low-key intelligence that once would have made him ideal for a role played by another kid Gordon: Barry, as Jason Robards’ nephew in A Thousand Clowns.  And Capron’s Rowley is a real find: a great fat little sidekick with a wonderful seraphic smile and the disposition of a frisky puppy.

After.Life (Also Blu-ray) (Two and a Half Stars)
U.S.; Agnieszka Wostowicz-Vosloo, 2009 (Starz/Anchor Bay)

Christina Ricci, as car-crash victim Anna Taylor spends most of this movie nude, or in a red slip, and lying on a table at the funeral home. Liam Neeson, as funeral home manager/departures specialist Eliot Deacon, spends much of it staring down at her and speaking softly, trying to get Anna to accept her fate.

No this is not the breakthrough in necrophiliac movie romance we’re all not waiting for. It’s a sophisticated, scary horror film in which Deacon proves to have a wild talent, albeit one very helpful in his profession. Deacon can speak to the dead, before their interment — although here, he spends most of his time jawboning with Anna, and ignoring the others, who aren’t as pretty and don’t have red slips. Anna’s guilt-tripping boyfriend Paul (Justin Long), who would like to talk to her too, gets mysterious calls from the funeral home, and is very suspicious of both Deacon and his business and home, into which he keeps trying to break. And little Jack (Chandler Canterbury) can hear and see Anna, though that may simply mean he‘s a potential departures expert.

Neeson, underplaying beautifully, shows that he could have played Hannibal Lecter, or any of Peter Cushing‘s old Hammer roles, and done a first-rate job. It’s hard though, to imagine how Deacon is able to take care of a thriving funeral business in a huge house with a mortuary and an accompanying graveyard, and do it all, even the grave digging, all by himself — besides carrying on long conversations with corpses and making sure they don’t escape.

Ricci is a fine damsel in grisly distress. Long, also the Alvin of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel is suitably perturbed, especially when he gets his ghostly calls or takes a roll in the cemetery.

I think that Wostowicz-Vosloo shows a lot of talent here, but that her subject matter  is a shade too grisly and a little too lacking in real dark humor.  Don’t confuse this movie, by the way, with Hirokazu Kore-eda’s wonderful 1998 fantasy After Life — which is not at all gruesome, and in which Ricci and Neeson do not appear, in red slips or otherwise.

Dogora (Three Stars)
France; Patrice Leconte, 2004 (Severin)

From the unusually versatile cineaste Patrice Leconte (Ridicule, The Hairdresser‘s Husband): A beautifully photographed semi-travelogue documentary, in which Leconte’s camera wanders around without narration in Cambodia — catching views of boats, people, waving grain, motorcycle riders, shabby or neon-lit city streets and relics of the past — while a very western and catchy orchestral/choral score by Etienne Perruchon gives the whole thing a Koyaaniqatsi feel.

I would have liked a little narration, or an identifying title or two, but Leconte has his perverse side. In the accompanying interview, he tells of a high school critic/interviewer who finally found a connecting thread in Leconte‘s variegated oeuvre — his films mostly deal with an encounter between strangers and are all set in enclosed worlds — and proceeds here to offer a film that utterly contradicts it. (No dialogue or subtitles.)

Extras: Interview with Leconte; Trailer.

Charlie’s Angels (Blu-ray) (Two Stars)
U.S.; McG (Joseph McGinty Nicol), 2000 (Sony)

Despite that omnipresent Farrah Fawcett poster, this ‘70s TV “classic” about glamour girl trouble-shooters wasn‘t really very good. And the movie is just more frenetic and expensive. It’s a supposed showcase for Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu as the Angels, and they look good it. (Then again, when don’t they look good?) With Bill Murray, Tim Curry, Sam Rockwell and LL Cool J. I hope they all had a great payday.

Bull Durham (Blu-ray) (Three and a Half Stars)
U.S.; Ron Shelton, 1988 (MGM)

A tough old minor-league catcher on his last legs (Kevin Costner), a young pitching phenom with lots of attitude (Tim Robbins), and the team super-fan with a great idea of baseball bonuses, who stands between them (Susan Sarandon). The best of all minor league baseball romantic comedies, despite that crack of Costner’s about the JFK assassination. Well, I guess there aren’t that many minor league baseball romantic comedies…Okay, one of the best of all sports romantic comedies. Sports movies maybe. Sure.

Sarandon had to prove to the execs that she was sexy enough for this show, and they should have been ashamed of themselves for even asking. (At least she got a bonus herself: This is where she met future husband Robbins.) Three balls, no strikes. A dry, wry, sexy double-header. No, that‘s not a double entendre, at least not an intentional one.

Extras: Commentaries by Shelton, Costner and Robbins; Featurettes.

The Breakfast Club (25th Anniversary Blu-ray) (Three Stars)
U.S.; John Hughes, 1985 (Universal)

Five kids on weekend detention hall duty (class princess Molly Ringwald, jock Emilio Estevez, brain Anthony Michael Hall, freaky Ally Sheedy, and leather-jacket rebel Judd Nelson)  get stuck with the biggest asshole of a teacher/detention monitor the school has got (Paul Gleason). They bond. He gets his. I was mixed on this in 1985. After all the ‘80s were such a goddam terrible decade for movies, it all began to look like crap. But I feel a little nostalgic about Breakfast Club now. It’s probably John Hughes’ most heartfelt statement of suburban teen solidarity. (His best movie remains Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.)

Part Time Work of a Domestic Slave (Three and a Half Stars)
Germany; Alexander Kluge, 1973 (Facets Video)

Director-writer Alexander Kluge and his star actress/sister Alexandra Kluge re-team for a movie that‘s similar to their great 1966 Venice Film Festival German New Wave breakthrough Yesterday Girl and just as provocative. It’s a radical, feminist, but not predictable look at marriage, sexism and labor unions, a Godardian mix of drama/melodrama and semi-documentary verite with Alexandra as Roswitha the activist wife of a student/ worker (Bion Steinborn), whose factory is slated for a secret closure and relocation to Portugal by its unscrupulous bosses.

The movie splits neatly in two, and committed mothers may be disturbed by it. In the first part, Alexandra works part time as an illegal abortionist’s assistant and the graphic operation scenes will make many cringe. In German, with English subtitles.

Extra: Kluge’s short documentary on education Teachers in Transition (Three Stars)

Crack in the World (One Star)
U.S.; Andrew Marton, 1965 (Olive)

Andrew Marton’s zenith as a filmmaker was undoubtedly his brilliant action direction of the chariot race in the William Wyler-Charlton Heston Ben-Hur. Here is what I hope is his nadir: a completely idiotic disaster movie, with passable effects and a ludicrous script, in which mortally ill and furiously obsessed scientist Dana Andrews (who takes his marching orders, bizarrely, from Alexander Knox and a conference room in London) fires a missile at the earth’s core so that we can pipe out the magma for fuel. Bad idea.

Unfortunately, our rash scientist creates a huge crack which travels fast around the world, leaving earthquakes, volcanoes and other catastrophes in its wake — but not too fast for Andrews‘ fleet-of-foot scientific colleague and romantic rival Kieron Moore, who keeps chasing the crack, and trying to fix things.

With Janette Scott, as Andrews‘s steadfast wife, who stands by her man even as the world seems on the verge of ending because of his stupidity.

SPOILER ALERT

The ending features the requisite couple shot, lots of red magma and a cute little squirrel poking his head up to catch a glimpse of sky.

END SPOILER

The only possible reason for watching this genuine catastrophe (Dana Andrews fans should actively void it and catch his other 1965 movie, that neglected classic In Harm’s Way instead) is if you have designs on making an Airplane-style spoof on disaster movies, and want the most ridiculous premise possible. The ad tagline for Crack in the World, by the way, was “Thank God it’s only a motion picture!” Amen.

Appointment with Danger (Two and a Half Stars)
U.S.; Lewis Allen, 1951 (Olive)

Brusque and hardcase postal inspector Alan Ladd goes undercover to investigate a murder that may be the key to a huge impending postal truck robbery. Phyllis Calvert is a nun who witnessed the murderers: that sterling noir pair Jack Webb and Harry Morgan of Dragnet), Paul Stewart is the robbery boss, and Jan Sterling does another moll. This is pretty entertaining in a “T-Men” sort of way, but not half as stylish.

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK: REVIEWS TO COME

Presenting Sacha Guitry (Four Discs) (Three and a Half Stars)
France; Sacha Guitry, 1936-38 (Eclipse/Criterion)

Includes: The Story of a Cheat (France; Sacha Guitry, 1936.)  Four Stars. (In French, with English subtitles.) The Pearls of the Crown (France; Sacha Guitry, 1937.)  Four Stars. (In French, Italian and English, with English subtitles.) Desire (France; Sacha Guitry, 1937.)  Three Stars. (In French, with English subtitles.) Quadrille (France; Sacha Guitry, 1938.)  Three Stars. (In French, with English subtitles.)

Extras: Four essays by Michael Koresky.

A Prophet: Blu-ray

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

With all due respect for the lives of the guards and inmates slaughtered by New York State Police at the Attica Correctional Facility in 1971, it’s reasonable to assume that American prisons are more hospitable places to spend a few years of incarceration than those in, say, Turkey, Thailand, China, Brazil, South Africa and Northern Ireland.

Or, so we’ve been led to believe by such movies as Midnight Express, Brokedown Palace, Red Corner, Pixote, Cry Freedom and Hunger. You can add to that list Jacques Audiard’s harrowing A Prophet, which was honored with the Grand Prize of the Jury at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

The story of survival in a maximum-security French prison features a stunning performance by newcomer Tahar Rahim as Malik El Djebena, an illiterate French-Arab orphan who decides early on that it’s better to be exploited by jailed Corsican mobsters than similarly predatory prisoners of his own background. After agreeing to kill a snitch, Malik is rewarded with protection and promises of better conditions by the Corsican godfather, César Luciani (Niels Arestrup, of Audiard’s The Beat That My Heart Skipped).

Toiling primarily as a go-fer, Malik makes the most of his servile status by eavesdropping on the Corsicans’ deliberations and serving as a conduit to other prison factions. His favored position also attracts the attention of prison grifters and corrupt prison guards, willing to facilitate the drug trade and other mutually beneficial services. Luciani never allows his ward to forget that the Corsicans control his destiny, but cuts him enough slack to attend classes and profit financially from his various enterprises. The old man also arranges for Malik, a likely candidate for parole, to leave the prison occasionally to learn a trade … supposedly, anyway.

Instead, under the cover of outside allies, Luciani requires Malik to perform certain odd jobs for the mob. In the time he has left over, Malik is able to create a criminal enterprise of his own. There’s no need to reveal any more of the narrative’s twists, except to point out that prisoners are no more immune to the complexities of rapidly shifting social sands than anyone living outside the walls.

In addition to presenting a damning indictment of the French penal system, A Prophet shares with HBO’s Oz an ability to shock, disgust, provoke and entertain viewers almost simultaneously. Lest one think the film is an apologia for bad behavior by caged felons, Audiard leaves little doubt as to the depravity of the characters or their willingness to destroy anyone who gets in the way of their criminal aspirations. What’s also obvious is the improbability of initiating reform in a system overwhelmed by ethnic and gang rivalries, overcrowding, corruption, moral ambiguity and political expediency.

Watching Malik leave prison after six years, we want to believe he’s achieved a level of maturity that would allow him to succeed without resorting to more criminality and violence. Ultimately, our fear is that he’ll only be exchanging one kind of prison for another. The performances in A Prophet are universally excellent, with Rahim and Arestup’s being of the quality that defines greatness. The Blu-ray set adds deleted scenes, rehearsal and audition footage, commentary and interviews. – Gary Dretzka

The Ghost Writer

Leaving aside any debate over the reasonableness of forcing Roman Polanski to return to the United States to accept his fate in a case that’s older than most of today’s movie-goers, can we agree that he’s still capable of making outstanding movies? In the last decade, the multiple Oscar-nominee has directed only three movies – The Pianist, Oliver Twist and The Ghost Writer – all of which have been embraced by critics, if not the audiences that currently haunt the nation’s multiplexes. If Ghost Writer is familiar to those masses, at all, it’s because it was mentioned in news articles as the film Polanski was forced to finish while he was being held prisoner in Switzerland.

Only someone very familiar with the process would be able to tell what, if anything, the director had to forgo artistically to get the movie finished in time for its scheduled release. As it is, Ghost Writer is a terrifically entertaining and highly literate political thriller. Adapted from a novel by author/screenwriter Robert Harris, it describes what transpires when a writer agrees to “ghost” the memoirs of the disgraced British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). Lang is supposed to remind us of Tony Blair, a politician whose support of the Iraq invasion was based primarily on lies propagated by President Bush. Ewan McGregor plays the writer, known simply as Ghost, who accepts the assignment even knowing that his predecessor died under mysterious circumstances. No sooner does he accept the gig than Ghost is mugged outside his home by someone who mistakes a different manuscript for the Lang autobiography.

That manuscript is hardly the stuff of intrigue and controversy. It’s exceedingly boring and requires several more interviews with Lang, who’s more concerned with avoiding trial in The Hague for war crimes than spicing up his autobiography. Ensconced in the PM’s compound in Martha’s Vineyard, Ghost discovers a clue that leads to further suspicion about the previous writer’s death, if not a clear motive. That will arrive in due time, as well. Ewan McGregor is very good as a reporter who can’t help but get entangled in a web of intrigue that involves Lang’s politically savvy wife (Olivia Williams), his advisor and likely mistress (Kim Cattrall), a devious Harvard professor (Tom Wilkinson) and salty old Vineyard resident (Eli Wallach). Polanski allows the story to unravel at a slow and deliberate pace, under leaden winter skies. And, yes, it’s OK to draw comparisons to Hitchcock.

Despite the obvious political overtones, Ghost Writer is far more a mystery than another excuse to bash the former resident of the White House or be seen as commentary on the director’s own incarceration. In any case, Harris’ original target was Blair, a world leader whose legacy will forever be tainted by his dealings with Bush and Dick Cheney. The bonus features include a makeshift interview with Polanski; interviews with cast members; a featurette, The Ghost Writer: Fiction or Reality?; and an interesting piece on how Polanski was able to re-create Martha’s Vineyard on a stretch of German beach. – Gary Dretzka

The Kim Novak Collection

If model-turned-starlet Kim Novak is less remembered today than fellow “blond bombshells” of the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, it’s only because she managed to make it out of Hollywood alive. The sultry Chicago native was discovered after touring the country as Miss Deep Freeze, for an appliance company. After a couple of bit roles as a pretty face in the background, Novak was hired by Columbia as its answer to Monroe.

She was given the nickname, The Lavender Girl, after the studio’s brain trust decided to add a touch of color to her platinum-colored hair. Before long, though, Novak was able to drop the affectation and stand on her own as a female lead. Even if her “torrid affairs” with directors, foreign dictators and business magnates, princes and big-name actors – the mob and studio executives famously put the kibosh on her romance with Sammy Davis Jr. — would keep studio publicists and the editors of gossip magazines hopping, it was her screen allure that paid the utility bills at Harry Cohn’s house. The movies included in this collection — Picnic, Jeanne Eagels, Bell, Book and Candle, Middle of the Night, Pal Joey — may cover only a few years of work, but they represent the surprising range of her talent.

Not included are Novak’s most prominent roles, in The Man With the Golden Arm and Vertigo, for which her talent was “loaned” to rival studios. Novak’s glamorous screen persona fell out of favor in the ’60s, causing her to think about taking early retirement. She would accept occasional assignments until 1991, but, mostly, she filled her days painting and riding horses in her Big Sur and rural Oregon homes.

In Picnic (1955), a handsome drifter played by William Holden arrives in a Kansas town, just in time for the annual Labor Day picnic. An old college chum, the son of the city’s wealthiest man, offers him a job at one of the family’s grain elevators, but their friendship begins to go sideways when he attracts the attention of his buddy’s girlfriend, a 19-year-old beauty queen played by Novak.

The worldliness of Holden’s Hal cuts against the grain of the town’s old-fashioned values and wariness of all things related to sex. It isn’t really the former athlete’s fault that the locals can’t handle his happy-go-lucky personality, but Hal pays the price for the hangovers they endure the morning after the picnic, nonetheless. Despite the fact that Holden was several years too old for the part, director Joshua Logan’s insistence that Picnic be shot on location in Kansas paid off in verisimilitude.

George Sidney’s biopic of Jeanne Eagels, a huge star in 1920s, gave Novak an opportunity to prove she could chew the scenery with the best of ‘em. As portrayed in the 1957 weeper, Eagels’ career evolved from small-town beauty and carnival shimmy dancer, to the heights of Broadway and Hollywood success. Eagels was so driven by her desire to play in the big leagues that she routinely refused to accept the advice of her well-intentioned mentors (Jeff Chandler, Agnes Moorehead), who could only stand by and watch the actor stumble down the road to self-destruction. Ultimately, Eagels succumbed to the twin evils of alcohol and drug addiction.

Also released in 1957, Sidney’s loose adaptation of the Broadway musical Pal Joey paired Novak with Rita Hayworth and Frank Sinatra. In the movie version, Sinatra plays a ring-a-ding-ding saloon singer who rarely succeeds in staying one step ahead of the law in the cities not already hip to his game. Joey Evans arrives in San Francisco broke, but quickly finds work in a nightclub in desperate need of a singer and emcee. (He was a hoofer in the stage musical.) Joey’s immediately attracted to Novak’s Linda English, a showgirl who initially plays hard to get, but ultimately sets his sights on a rich widow (Hayworth) he first met when she was a chorus girl and stripper.

It takes all of Joey’s sleazy skills to balance his interest in both women with his dream of hoping a nightclub of his own, financed by someone else’s money. Eventually, both women run out of patience with the cad. The movie also differs from the stage version in the soundtrack. Two of the movie’s most popular songs, My Funny Valentine and The Lady Is A Tramp, were lifted from the 1937 musical Babes in Arms, while I Didn’t Know What Time It Was came from Too Many Girls (1939) and There’s a Small Hotel was introduced in On Your Toes (1936). Nevertheless, it’s fun to watch the stars interact on a set decorated to take full advantage of the Technicolor palette.

In Bell, Book, and Candle (1958), Novak plays a sexy Greenwich Village shopkeeper and sorceress, who’s tired of the witchy lifestyle and wants to attract a normal guy. Enter upstairs neighbor Shep Henderson, as played by James Stewart, as normal a guy who’s ever walked the Earth. Despite her desire to go straight, Gillian casts a spell on Shep to free him from the clutches of his society-girl fiancé. It backfires after the befuddled publisher realizes that all of his lover’s friends and relatives are witches and his feelings may be based on false pretenses. All works out in the end, of course, thanks in no small part to enchanting characters played by Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs, Hermione Gingold and Elsa Lanchester.

Middle of the Night (1959) may be the most noteworthy title in the collection, if only for its unfamiliarity and the writing of Paddy Chayefsky. In it, a recently divorced receptionist at a New York clothing company succumbs to the advances of her much-older boss (Frederick March), who lost his wife several years earlier. The receptionist is no gold-digger and the gentleman isn’t interested in her as a fling. Really, the only things standing in the way of a compatible relationship are the protestations of their respective families and the boss’ increasingly possessive behavior. Delbert Mann’s shrewdly paced direction allows viewers to savor the nuances of Chayefsky’s very smart script and make their own decision as to the appropriateness of the relationship. Also wonderful is the movie’s gritty urban feel, which owes much to the fact that many of the scenes were shot in Manhattan’s bustling streets. The supporting cast includes Martin Balsam and Lee Grant.

The collection includes Novak’s reflections on the movies and commentary on select scenes, as well as the featurettes Kim Novak’s Hollywood Picnic, Backstage and at Home With Kim Novak and Bewitched, Bothered and Beautiful. – Gary Dretzka

Finding Bliss

Leelee Sobieski, Kristen Johnston and Denise Richards share the spotlight in this unconvincing romantic comedy, set against the backdrop of Los Angeles’ porn industry. Sobieski plays a NYU film-school graduate who moves west to make movies, but, instead, can only find a gig editing a XXX-rated flick with aspirations of being taking seriously as art. Instead of being completed discouraged, Sobieski’s character decides to film a project of her own creation at the Valley studio at night and on weekends.

Although she holds an open audition, she ends up with a cast comprised of porn stars looking to break into more traditional movies. Most of the conflicts take the form of petty disagreements between Sobieski and her boss (Matthew Davis), who initially seems like a sleaze-ball, but is really a pussy cat. Finding Bliss certainly won’t make anyone forget Boogie Nights. It’s not completely devoid of humor or romance, though. It simply doesn’t look as if writer/director Julie Davis (Amy’s Orgasm) spent more than five minutes researching the industry and watching those porn flicks that actually succeed in achieving something resembling art. – Gary Dretzka

Chow Down

This cautionary documentary does two things effectively. One, it shines needed light on the twin epidemics of diabetes and heart disease in the U.S., and, two, it offers an alternative solution to surgery and pharmaceuticals for both diseases. “Chow Down” makes the generally accepted point that surgery is a more of a band-aid than a cure-all, when it comes to eliminating the threat of future heart attacks and strokes, and it’s worth even less if patients refuse to lose weight, exercise or actually take their medication as prescribed. According to the doctors and patients interviewed here, a strict plant-based diet has already been shown to reduce the symptoms of such diseases and reversed many of the conditions that force emergency treatment.

The doctors and spokespersons for health organizations don’t come off as rabid vegans or anti-meat activists. Instead, case studies and other research are shared in a bright, easy-to-stomach fashion. An element of Super Size Me rhetoric is introduced when the experts describe USDA efforts to dilute such findings and include meat and less-healthy grain by-products on the official nutrition pyramids. Chow Down might make a good hint-hint gift for friends and relatives you fear may be on the road to a heart attack, if they don’t start changing their eating habits. – Gary Dretzka

Kick-Ass: Blu-ray

What do you get when you cross a story about a clueless superhero wannabe with the producer of such balls-out British gangland thrillers as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch? Short answer: Kick-Ass. Producer Matthew Vaughn made his directorial debut in 2004 with Layer Cake. In that hyper-violent drama, 007-to-be Daniel Craig played a London coke dealer whose retirement plans are put on hold by a mob boss who requests two favors from him, either one of which could delay his plans permanently. In Kick-Ass, a delusional high school dweeb convinces himself that the only real difference between him and Batman is a cowl, cape and spandex costume.

Dave Lizewski first comes to the public’s attention when he’s mugged and seriously wounded by a pair of knife-wielding car thieves he foolishly confronts in a New York parking lot. After leaving the hospital, the teen comic-book fanatic dons his costume once again, this time hoping to dispatch a quartet of thugs outside a New York diner. While Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson) is only slightly more successful in this fracas, his crime-fighting efforts are captured by cellphone-wielding pedestrians, who make their videos available to local TV outlets.

The news reports attract the attention of a father-daughter vigilante team, Big Daddy (Nic Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), and a crime kingpin’s nerdy son, who also aspires to becoming a superhero, Red Mist. In addition to being genuinely hilarious, the interaction between former-cop Big Daddy and the pre-teen Hit Girl borders on the insane. Our first introduction to this dynamic duo comes when Big Daddy tests his daughter’s ability to withstand a bullet shot directly at her tiny chest. Blessedly, her torso is protected by a Kevlar vest, but we aren’t made aware of that fact until after she’s lying on the ground, seemingly lifeless. Big Daddy also teaches the potty-mouthed young’un how to use an arsenal of weapons, ranging from assault rifles to nunchucks.

There’s enough explosive action in the last half-hour of Kick-Ass to fill another two or three “Spider-Man” sequels. Kick-Ass is rated “R” for several very good reasons and parents should consider watching the movie themselves before allowing their kids to experience the comic-book mayhem and crass language. (One needn’t be a teenager to enjoy it.) The Blu-ray package includes Vaughn’s commentary; the PIP Ass-Kicking BonusView Mode, which adds multimedia material to the commentary; the featurettes, A New Kind of Superhero: The Making of Kick-Ass and It’s On! The Comic Book Origin of Kick-Ass; a gallery of art from the graphic novel; Internet connectivity; and BD Touch and Metamenu Remote features. – Gary Dretzka

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Blu-ray

Unlike Kick-Ass, not all teenage dorks want to avenge the bullying tactics of their older classmates by becoming super-heroes. Some just want to make it through the first year of middle school without drawing any attention to themselves. Berlin-born director Thor Freudenthal employs live action and some rudimentary animation in his adaptation of Jeff Kinney’s popular book and blog series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

In some school systems, middle school begins at seventh grade, before most kids have experienced growth spurts, puberty and the removal of their orthodontia. The boys, especially, stick out like sore thumbs — or fear they do — and dream of the day when something dramatic happens, automatically upgrading their status to “cool.” Undersized even by the standards set by 7th Graders, Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) assumes he’s already cool enough to hang with kids his brother’s age, but still enjoys dressing up in costumes and playing with action figures. Greg’s rotund, red-headed best friend, Rowley, is considerably lamer than the more ambitious diarist, but wisely has little desire to impress the older kids.

The characters will be immediately recognizable to kids in the target demographic and parents of children making the same adjustments as their peers in the movie. Unlike too many other movies about children in their early teens, Diary doesn’t force its characters to grapple with issues of sexual identity. The thing that finally comes between the two friends is Rowley winning a cartoon-drawing contest, sponsored by the school newspaper, something Greg wanted desperately to win. Viewers unfamiliar with Kinney’s books might find Freudenthal’s pacing to be on the slow side and wish more time was set aside for Greg’s parents, played by Steve Zahn and Rachel Harris.

Neither is Diary able to provoke the same belly laughs as the late John Hughes could in movies with characters roughly the same age as those here. But, then, how many filmmakers possess even half of Hughes’ understanding of what makes teenagers tick and empathy for their predicaments, real and imagined. Besides a DVD and digital copy, the Blu-ray package arriveswith Greg’s Deleted Diary Pages; commentary with Freudenthal and writer Gabe Sachs; deleted scenes; and Rowley’s lost Zoo-Wee Mama cartoons. – Gary Dretzka

After.Life: Blu-ray

Despite the fact that Christina Ricci spends more than half of After.Life completely naked or in a sexy red slip, the movie came and went with barely a ripple of excitement during its half-hearted 41-screen theatrical release last April. In it, Ricci plays a recently deceased school teacher, who, despite having been declared dead, wakes up on slab in funeral home.

Standing over Anna Taylor’s body is Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson), a funeral director able to communicate with the dead during their transition from Earthly being to the Great Beyond. Deacon fits the stereotype of a traditional undertaker: exceedingly calm, compassionate, polite, professional and a bit too attached to his work. Taylor presents a bit of a problem for Deacon, in that she refuses to accept the evidence he presents of her death and traipses around the preparation room like a poltergeist in a china shop.

The funeral director also is required to deal with the corpse’s former boyfriend, whose proposal of marriage so unnerved Taylor that she ignored warnings of dangerous driving conditions and was hit by a truck. He can’t accept the coroner’s report, either. Director/co-writer Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo wants us to believe, first, that Deacon is every bit the medium he claims to be and Taylor is only prolonging the inevitable. About half-way through After.Life, however, she offers clues to support Taylor and her boyfriend’s position.

For me, at least, the guessing game continued until the very end … long after I stopped caring. After.Life looks good and benefits from a soundtrack by former Tangerine Dream member Paul Haslinger. It probably will enjoy a long afterlife in DVD, if only for Ricci’s willingness to remain undressed for such long periods of time. I can think of worse reasons to rent a movie. – Gary Dretzka

Spinnin’
Change of Life

The national argument over the legalization of same-sex marriages is so fraught with controversy that it threatens to crack the foundation of constitutional law in the United States. Liberal politicians have allowed the fire-breathing demagogues of the religious- and talk-radio right to frame the debate to fit their extremist agendas, while pro-marriage advocates struggle to neutralize the efforts of the Mormon Church to stifle any opposing opinion with financial contributions.

Spinnin’ and Change of Life represent opposite sides of the gay-marriage coin. Made in Spain, where such unions are legal, Eusebio Pastrana’s frothy romance isn’t obligated to dwell on the negative aspects of gay life in a predominantly Catholic nation. It can bypass controversy and focus on issues that inform marriages everywhere. Here, Garate and Omar have gotten to the point in their relationship where they want have children, but haven’t been able to impregnate any of their close female friends.

Instead, they befriend a woman desperate to find someone, anyone, with whom to share her pregnancy. Pastrana also is free to introduce other interesting characters, straight and gay, from their neighborhood. In this way, Spinnin’ is a movie about love and marriage that, while unconventional, delivers a message with which most movie-goers can identify.

Made in Kansas on a shoestring budget, Change of Life couldn’t be more contentious. Its central figure is a radio evangelist, Gary Catell, so fixated on his hatred for gays and lesbians that he invents scripture to fit his radical views. His flock of listeners represents the kind of rabid Christian “warriors” who picket the funerals of soldiers to protest … well, I’m not sure what they’re protesting. Turns out, Catell’s daughter is a lesbian, made so distraught by her father’s rants that she shoots herself during an on-air exchange.

This so unnerves Catell, he tells God that he’d accept any punishment, if only his daughter’s suicide could be reversed. God, in His infinite jest, saves the girl but forces the preacher to inhabit the body of a young gay man, so he can experience the pain of mindless prejudice first-hand. As such, Change of Life is a polemical cross between Heaven Can Wait and It’s a Wonderful World.

First-time writer/director/producer/cinematographer/editor Amy McClung was 21 when she made Change of Life, and her inexperience is palpable. On the plus side, the film improves as it unspools and clearly would have been better if she had any kind of budget behind her. – Gary Dretzka

Piranha: Roger Corman’s Cult Classics: Blu-ray
Humanoids From the Deep/Death Sport / Battle Truck

No American producer was able to exploit the success of other filmmakers more effectively than Roger Corman, and there’s no better example of such mimicry than Piranha. No sooner had Jaws re-written the textbook on film distribution, and Jaws II was rushed into development, than Piranha was commissioned to take advantage of the hype surrounding both pictures. Corman’s spin on the world’s most profitable fish story was to threaten tourists and campers on an inland lake not with a giant shark, but hundreds of comparatively miniscule piranhas.

How the predatory fish found their way into a Catskills lake is almost beside the point, except that it involves a failed military experiment. Once the piranhas are inadvertently freed from their aquariums, though, the nearby waterways are safe for no swimmer, beast or topless hottie. Today, Piranha is noteworthy primarily for the contributions of writer John Sayles and director Joe Dante. The special effects are primitive and none of the actors appear to have worked up a sweat. Based purely on its campy charm, though, Piranha stands up better than any of the Jaws sequels and is worth watching, if only in anticipation of Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D.

Two years after Piranha, Humanoids From the Deep would extends the Jaws conceit even further, by introducing amphibious monsters that were as deadly as sharks, but resembled the Creature From the Black Lagoon. They, too, were the byproduct of an insane scientific experiment, this one involving salmon, frogs and human DNA. Here, though, Corman was insistent on creating a movie that pushed the limits of the horror genre when it came to gratuitous gore and sex.

Humanoids is set in a coastal city whose economy is threatened by a growing rift between racist thugs and Native Americans willing to take their case for traditional fishing rights to federal court. The issue is made moot by the arrival of the humanoids, however. In Corman’s mind, the only thing audiences needed to know was that the creatures were there to “kill the town’s men and rape the women.” Indeed, when original director Barbara Peeters delivered a version in which the killings and rapes weren’t sufficiently graphic, she was relieved of her duties. The result is a movie that, even today, might teeter on the brink of NC-17. I shudder to think what a fully digitized, 21st Century version of Humanoids From the Deep might resemble.

Also available this week as part of Shout! Factory’s Cult Classics series are Battletruck and Deathsport. The former anticipates the day when wars would be fought over the dwindling supplies of oil and gasoline necessary to fuel oversized vehicles of mass destruction. Two decades later, the same scenario would play out in Iraq, with Dick Cheney and George Bush getting top billing. Released in 1978, Deathsport is essentially a post-apocalyptical sequel to Death Race 2000, with David Carradine once again in the lead role. This time around, however, the vehicles of choice are “destructocycles.”

The Blu-ray packages feature interviews with Corman and other participants, lively commentary, original trailers and stills, behind-the-scenes footage and outtakes. – Gary Dretzka

Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Movie Collection, Set 5
Stargate Universe: SGU: Season 1.5: Blu-ray
Henson’s Place: The Man Behind the Muppets
Dora’s Big Birthday Adventure

Anyone who missed the recent run of Agatha Christie movies on PBS’Masterpiece Mystery! can catch up with them in this package from Acorn Media. David Suchet plays the brilliant Belgian detective in Murder on the Orient Express, alongside Toby Jones, Barbara Hershey, Hugh Bonneville and Dame Eileen Atkins; Third Girl, in which Poirot collaborates with crime novelist Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker) to help a young heiress who thinks she may have committed a murder; and Appointment with Death, set at an archaeological dig in the Syrian Desert, where the wife of Lord Boynton (Tim Curry) is murdered. The set adds documentary in which Suchet hosts a tour of the present-day Orient Express and 120 Years With Agatha Christie.

The latest Blu-ray edition of Stargate Universe concludes the first-season episodes. (Half-season packages really ought to be banned.) Here, Robert Carlyle’s Dr. Rush must locate a tracking devise hidden somewhere on the Destiny and ferret out an Alliance mole who’s infiltrated the team. The series also stars Lou Diamond Phillips, Michael Shanks, Richard Dean Anderson and Julia Benson.

The informative and entertaining documentary Henson’s Place was made in 1984, at the height of popularity for the Muppet franchise and six years before Jim Henson’s untimely death. At the time, the empire had yet to be conglomerized and its products reflected a singular vision. Among those interviewed are Henson and his wife Jane, and close associate Frank Oz. The doc also provides a behind-the-scenes looks at the Henson Workshop, where much of the magic happened.

Dora’s Big Birthday Adventure caps Nickelodeon’s Magic Storybook trilogy. Dora is young Latina, whose best friend and fellow adventurer is a monkey named Boots. Together, they must overcome a witch and other obstacles on the way back home for Dora’s birthday.

– Gary Dretzka

Wilmington on Movies: Cop Out, The Crazies, A Prophet, North Face and The Ghost Writer (revisited)

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Cop Out (One and a Half Stars)
U. S.; Kevin Smith, 2010

Cop Out is one movie where you can tell what went wrong just by looking at the trailer. The (more…)

A Prophet director Jacques Audiard, actor Tahar Rahim

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Page 24

Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Link to the List

Karen Durbin

1 Hunger
2 Hurt Locker
3 White Ribbon
4 Treeless Mountain
5 Precious
6 Bright Star
7 Where the Wild Things Are
8 Private Lives of Pippa Lee
9 Inglourious Basterds
10 Jennifer’s Body
Link to the List

Quentin Tarantino

1 Star Trek
2 Drag Me To Hell
3 Funny People
4 Up in the Air
5 Chocolate
6 Observe and Report
7 Zombieland
8 Julie & Julia
9 Avatar | The Hurt Locker
10 District 9
Link to the List

David Edelstein

1 Summer Hours
2 Everlasting Moments
3 Brothers
4 Fantastic Mr. Fox
5 Tyson
6 A Serious Man
7 Coraline
8 In the Loop
9 Food Inc
10 The Hurt Locker
Link to the List

J. Hoberman

1 The Hurt Locker
2 Hunger
3 Police, Adjective
4 I’m Gonna Explode
5 Coraline
6 The Sun
7 Beaches of Agnes
8 The Headless Woman
9 Inglourious Basterds
10 Red Cliff
Link to the List

TC Kirkham

1 Astroboy
2 Avatar
3 Departures
4 (500) Days of SUmmer
5 Julie & Julia
6 New York, I Love You
7 9 | Sita Sings the BLues
8 Star Trek | Taking Woodstock
9 Up
10 Watchmen
Link to the List

Robert Levin

1 Up in the Air
2 A Serious Man
3 The Hurt Locker
4 Of Time and the City
5 Avatar
6 The Messenger
7 The COve
8 Up
9 Sin Nombre
10 Big Fan
Link to the List

Geoff Berkshire

1 Precious
2 Up in the Air
3 Summer Hours
4 Inglourious Basterds
5 Where the Wild Things Are
6 Ponyo
7 Moon
8 Sugar
9 A Single Man
10 Funny People
Link to the List

Irv Slifkin

1 A Serious Man
2 Taking Woodstock
3 Avatar
4 Anvil! The Story of Anvil
5 Fantastic Mr. Fox
6 Hurt Locker
7 (500) Days of Summer
8 The Hangover
9 In the Loop
10 Sugar

Geoff Berkshire | Karen Durbin | David Edelstein | J. Hoberman | TC Kirkham | Robert Levin | Irv Slifkin | Quentin Tarantino

Page 23

Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Link to the List

Betsy Pickle

1 That Evening Sun
2 Up in the Air
3 (500) Days of SUmmer
4 Avatar
5 The Messenger
6 Inglourious Basterds
7 In the Loop
8 Bright Star
9 An Education
10 Julie & Julia
Link to the List

Al Alexander

1 Inglourious Basterds
2 Up in the Air
3 Up
4 In the Loop
5 The Hurt Locker
6 The Messenger
7 (500) Days of SUmmer
8 Food Inc
9 Baader Meinhof Complex
10 Coraline
Link to the List

Jen Yamato

1 Beaches of Agnes
2 Fantastic Mr. Fox
3 Up
4 The Hurt Locker
5 Bronson
6 Where the Wild Things Are
7 The Messenger
8 An Education
9 District 9
10 (500) Days of Summer
Link to the List

Jennifer Merin

1 An Education
2 Beaches of Agnes
3 Bright Star
4 The Cove
5 District 9
6 Fantastic Mr. Fox
7 The Hurt Locker
8 The Messenger
9 Precious
10 Up in the Air
Link to the List

Susan Granger

1 Avatar
2 The Hurt Locker
3 Inglourious Basterds
4 Invictus
5 Julie & Julia
6 Nine
7 Star Trek
8 The Blind Side
9 Up
10 Up in the AIr
Link to the List

Tricia Olszewski

1 Up
2 Inglourious Basterds
3 Up in the Air
4 Paranormal Activity
5 Coraline
6 Adventureland
7 World’s Greatest Dad
8 The Hurt Locker
9 Food, Inc
10 Sherlock Holmes
Link to the List

Ann Lewinson

1 Gomorrah
2 An Education
3 The White Ribbon
4 A Serious Man
5 Hunger
6 District 9
7 The Single Man
8 The Hurt Locker
9 The Limits of Control
10 Princess & the Frog
Link to the List

Jette Kernion
AWFJ

1 A Serious Man
2 Bronson
3 World’s Greatest Dad
4 Coraline
5 St. Nick
6 A Town Called Panic
7 District 9
8 Fantastic Mr. Fox
9 Up in the Air
10 Inglourious Basterds
Link to the List

Marjorie Baumgarten

1 Where the Wild Things Are
2 The Beaches of Agnes
3 A Single Man
4 A Serious Man
5 The Hurt Locker
6 Summer Hours
7 An Education
8 Up
9 Antichrist
10 Bright Star
Link to the List

Katey Rich

1 Inglourious Basterds
2 Up
3 In the Loop
4 Star Trek
5 A Serious Man
6 Avatar
7 The White Ribbon
8 Fantastic Mr. Fox
9 Sugar
10 Duplicity

Al Alexander | Marjorie Baumgarten | Susan Granger | Jette Kernion | Ann Lewinson | Jennifer Merin | Tricia Olszewski | Betsy Piickle | Katey Rich | Jen Yamato

Page 22

Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Link to the List

Nell Minow
AWFJ

1 Up in the Air
2 Where the Wild Things Are
3 Precious
4 Fantastic Mr. Fox
5 (500) Days of Summer
6 District 9
7 Coraline
8 Up
9 Star Trek
10 An Education
Link to the List

Jessica Barnes

1 Where the Wild Things Are
2 The Hurt Locker
3 Moon
4 Inglourious Basterds
5 District 9
6 Funny People
7 Watchmen
8 Star Trek
9 Adventureland
10 Food Inc.
Link to the List

Shelli Sonstein
AWFJ

1 Up in the Air
2 Inglourious Basterds
3 Up
4 The Hurt Locker
5 Precious
6 The Messenger
7 Avatar
8 Zombieland
9 Pirate Radio
10 Bruno
Link to the List

Cynthia Fuchs

1 Back Home Tomorrow
2 Beaches of Agnes
3 How to Fold a Flag
4 The Hurt Locker
5 Living in Emergency
6 October Country
7 Sugar
8 35 Shots of Rum
9 Treeless Mountain
10 24 City
Link to the List

Diana Saenger
AWFJ

1 Avatar
2 The Messenger
3 Bright Star
4 Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
5 Sin Nombre
6 Me & Orson Welles
7 The Cove
8 The Burning Plain
9 The Hangover
10
Link to the List

Joanna Langfield
AWFJ

1 Up in the Air
2 The Hurt Locker
3 A Serious Man
4 Avatar
5 Up
6 District 9
7 Crazy Heart
8 An Education
9 (500) Days of Summer
10 Adventureland
Link to the List

Thelma Adams

1 Up in the Air
2 The Hurt Locker
3 Star Trek
4 The Hangover
5 The Young Victoria
6 District 9
7 Coco Before Chanel
8 Inglourious Basterds
9 Paranormal Activity
10 Up
Link to the List

Rebecca Murray

1 Avatar
2 (500) Days of Summer
3 Up
4 An Education
5 Inglourious Basterds
6 The Hurt Locker
7 The Road
8 Zombieland
9 Up in the Air
10 District 9
Link to the List

Claudia Puig
AWFJ

1 The Hurt Locker
2 Up
3 Up in the Air
4 Sin Nombre
5 Sugar
6 (500) Days of SUmmer
7 District 9
8 Inglourious Basterds
9 A Serious Man
10 Summer Hours
Link to the List

Carol Cling
AWFJ

1 The Hurt Locker
2 An Education
3 Bright Star
4 Up
5 Princess and the Frog
6 The Cove
7 A Serious Man
8 In the Loop
9 Up in the Air
10 Sin Nombre

Thelma Adams | Jessica Barnes | Carol Cling | Cyntia Fuchs | Brandy McDonnell | Nell Minow | Rebecca Murray | Claudia Puig | Diana Saenger | Shelli Sonstein

Page 21

Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Link to the List

Susan Wloszczyna

1 Up in the Air
2 The Hurt Locker
3 Up
4 Precious
5 A Serious Man
6 An Education
7 Zombieland
8 Coraline
9 Fantastic Mr. Fox
10 Inglourious Basterds
Link to the List

David Walsh

1 Everlasting Moments
2 Of Time and the City
3 The Country Teacher
4 Laila’s Birthday
5 Where the Wild Things Are
6 Serbis
7 The Men Who Stare at Goats
8 24 City
9 A Serious man
10 Bright Star
Link to the List

Karina Longworth

1 Silent Light
2 Two Lovers
3 The Girlfriend Experience
4 Summer Hours
5 Beeswax
6 Cargo 200
7 The Limits of Control
8 Bad Lieutenant
9 The Hurt Locker
10 Inglourious Basterds
Link to the List

Mark Jenkins

1 35 Shots of Rum
2 Summer Hours
3 Still Walking
4 The Beaches of Agnes
5 The Hurt Locker
6 24 City
7 The Cove
8 Tokyo Sonata
9 Departures
10 Police, Adjective
Link to the List

Sean P. Means
Salt Lake Tribune

1 Sita Sings the Blues
2 A Serious Man
3 Up
4 The Cove
5 Up in the Air
6 Phoebe in Wonderland
7 The Class
8 Pirate Radio
9 Every Little Step
10 In the Loop
Link to the List

Aaron Hillis

1 Tetro
2 Two Lovers
3 Inglourious Basterds
4 The Hurt Locker
5 Fantastic Mr. Fox
6 35 Shots of Rum
7 You, the Living
8 The Informant
9 Paradise
10 Tony Manero
Link to the List

Caryn James

1 Up in the Air
2 Bright Star
3 The Hurt Locker
4 A Single Man
5 Inglourious Basterds
6 An Education
7 Fantastic Mr. Fox
8 In the Loop
9 The Road
10 Seraphine
Link to the List

Dennis Lim
Moving Image Source

1 Summer Hours
2 The Limits of Control
3 The Headless Woman
4 Inglourious Basterds
5 24 City
6 Police, Adjective
7 Fantastic Mr. Fox
8 Night and Day
9 Liverpool
10 Beeswax
Link to the List

Richard Brody
New Yorker

1 Fantastic Mr. Fox
2 Beaches of Agnes
3 Funny People
4 Two Lovers
5 Gentlemen Broncos
6 Police, Adjective
7 24 City
8 Lorna’s Silence
9 Frontier of Dawn
10 Alexander the Last
Link to the List

Ed Gonzalez

1 Two Lovers
2 Up
3 Julia
4 Where the Wild Things Are
5 The Hurt Locker
6 Revanche
7 35 Shots of Rum
8 Inglourious Basterds
9 That Evening Sun
10 The Window

Richard Brody | Ed Gonzalez | Aaron Hillis | Caryn James | Mark Jenkins | Dennis Lim | Karina Longworth | Sean Means | David Walsh | Susan Wloszczyna

Page 20

Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Link to the List

Amy Taubin
Film Comment

1 35 Shots of Rum
2 The Hurt Locker
3 The Headless Woman
4 Tulpan
5 Tokyo Sonata
6 The Informant
7 Lake Tahoe
8 Police, Adjective
9 The Sun
10 Sugar
Link to the List

Chuck Wilson
LA Weekly

1 Bright Star
2 The Hurt Locker
3 Everlasting Moments
4 A Single Man
5 Drag Me to Hell
6 Police, Adjective
7 Public Enemies
8 The Beaches of Agnes
9 The Messenger
10 Bad Lieutenant
Link to the List

Joe Leydon
Variety

1 Up in the Air
2 That Evening Sun
3 (500) Days of Summer
4 The Messenger
5 Fantastic Mr. Fox
6 A Serious Man
7 The Informant
8 Summer Hours
9 The Hurt Locker
10 Funny People
Link to the List

Gerald Peary
Boston Phoenix

1 The Hurt Locker
2 A Serious man
3 Precious
4 Humpday
5 The Baader Meinhof Complex
6 Lorna’s Silence
7 The Informant
8 Beeswax
9 Up
10 Treeless Mountain
Link to the List

Sam Adams
LA Times

1 Still Walking
2 A Serious Man
3 The Sun
4 Fantastic Mr. Fox
5 Coraline
6 The Hurt Locker
7 The Limits of Control
8 The Headless Woman
9 Two Lovers
10 Crank: High Voltage
Link to the List

Ben Kenigsberg
Time Out Chicago

1 Inglourious Basterds
2 The Hurt Locker
3 A Serious Man
4 Tokyo Sonata
5 The Headless Woman
6 Julia
7 The Box
8 The White Ribbon
9 Public Enemies
10 Summer Hours
Link to the List

Nathan Lee
Film Comment

1 The Headless Woman
2 Halloween II
3 Summer Hours
4 Inglourious Basterds
5 TheSun
6 Next Day Air
7 Adventureland
8 Loren Cass
9 The Feature
10 The Limits of Control
Link to the List

Matthew Wilder
Collider.com

1 Broken Embraces
2 A Serious man
3 Inglourious Basterds
4 The Hurt Locker
5 The Headless Woman
6 Tetro
7 Bad Lieutenant
8 The Informant
9 Night and Day
10 You, the Living
Link to the List

Matt Prigge
Philadelphia Weekly

1 In the Loop
2 Inglourious Basterds
3 Duplicity
4 The Headless Woman
5 I’m Gonna Explode
6 The Beaches of Agnes
7 Fantastic Mr. Fox
8 Sita Sings the Blues
9 Afterschool
10 Crank: High Voltage
Link to the List

Sean Burns
Philadelphia Weekly

1 Up
2 A Serious Man
3 Adventureland
4 Public Enemies
5 The Hurt Locker
6 Two Lovers
7 Where the Wild Things Are
8 Fantastic Mr. Fox
9 Funny People
10 Bad Lieutenant

Sam Adams | Sean Burns | Ben Kenigsberg | Nathan Lee | Joe Leydon | Gerald Peary | Matt Prigge | Amy Taubin | Matthew Wilder | Chuck Wilson

Page 19

Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Link to the List

Whitney Matheson
USA Today PopCandy

1 Fantastic Mr. Fox
2 Star Trek
3 Inglourious Basterds
4 The Rock-afire Explosion
5 Tyson
6 Whip It
7 Humpday
8 Coraline
9 Best Worst Movie
10 Adventureland
Link to the List

Don Sanchez
ABC-7

1 A Single Man
2 An Education
3 Avatar
4 The Blind Side
5 The Hurt Locker
6 Inglourious Basterds
7 Nine
8 Star Trek
9 Up
10 Up in the Air
Link to the List

Michael Sragow
The Baltimore Sun

1 The Exiles
2 The Hurt Locker
3 The Class
4 Up
5 Waltz with Bashir
6 Harvard Beats Yale 29-29
7 Bright Star
8 Cheri
9 Everlasting Moments
10 Precious
Link to the List

George Roush
Latino Review

1 Up
2 Inglorious Basterds
3 The Hurt Locker
4 Precious
5 District 9
6 Taken
7 The Cove
8 In the Loop
9 The Hangover
10 The Mystery Team
Link to the List

Curt Holman
Creative Loafing

1 Up
2 The Hurt Locker
3 12
4 In the Loop
5 The Damned United
6 District 9
7 A Serious Man
8 Fantastic Mr. Fox
9 Coraline
10 Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Link to the List

Brandy McDonnell
The Oklahoman

1 Inglorious Basterds
2 The Hurt Locker
3 Up in the Air
4 (500) Days of Summer
5 Precious
6 Fantastic Mr. Fox
7 Up
8 District 9
9 Invictus
10 The Brothers Bloom
Link to the List

Matt Goldberg
Collider.com

1 The Brothers Bloom
2 Up
3 A Serious Man
4 Where the Wild Things Are
5 District 9
6 Inglourious Basterds
7 A Single Man
8 Away We Go
9 In the Loop
10 Fantastic Mr. Fox
Link to the List

Brad Schreiber
Huffington Post

1 Coraline
2 Duplicity
3 Moon
4 The Baader Meinhof Complex
5 The Last Station
6 Hunger
7 O’Horten
8 A Serious Man
9 An Education
10 The Hangover
Link to the List

Clint O’Connor
The Plain Dealer

1 Precious
2 In the Loop
3 Fantastic Mr. Fox
4 Up in the Air
5 Avatar
6 Me & Orson Welles
7 Inglourious Basterds
8 The Hangover
9 The Hurt Locker
10 A Serious Man
Link to the List

Matt Pais
Metromix Chicago

1 A Serious Man
2 Where the Wild Things Are
3 The Hurt Locker
4 Tulpan
5 Crazy Heart
6 Mary & Max
7 An Education
8 In the Loop
9 The Girlfriend Experience
10 Extract

Matt Goldberg | Curt Holman | Whitney Matheson | Brandy McDonnell | Clint O’Connor | Matt Pais | George Roush | Don Sanchez | Brad Schreiber | Michael Sragow

Page 18

Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Link to the List

C. Robert Cargill

1 District 9
2 Fish Story
3 Avatar
4 Star Trek
5 Moon
6 Fantastic Mr. Fox
7 The Road
8 Up
9 Taking Woodstock
10 Up in the Air
Link to the List

Amanda Mae Meyncke

1 Bright Star
2 Inglourious Basterds
3 The Brothers Bloom
4 A Single Man
5 Public Enemies
6 (500) Days of Summer
7 An Education
8 The Hangover
9 Avatar
10 Sunshine Cleaning
Link to the List

MaryAnn Johanson
Film.com

1 The Hurt Locker
2 District 9
3 The Road
4 The Soloist
5 A Serious Man
6 Bright Star
7 Up
8 Inglourious Basterds
9 Fantastic Mr. Fox
10 The Brothers Bloom
Link to the List

Laremy Legel

1 Inglourious Basterds
2 In the Loop
3 Fantastic Mr. Fox
4 Star Trek
5 Sherlock Holmes
6 Up
7 (500) Days of Summer
8 The Hangover
9 The Brothers Bloom
10 Away We Go
Link to the List

Josh Tyler
Cinema Blend

1 Up in the Air
2 (500) Days of Summer
3 The Hurt Locker
4 Bad Lieutenant
5 Up
6 Whip It
7 Mystery Team
8 Peter and Vandy
9 Watchmen
10 Star Trek
Link to the List

Kiko Martinez
San Antonio News

1 Where the Wild Things Are
2 Up in the Air
3 A Serious Man
4 Fantastic Mr. Fox
5 The White Ribbon
6 Broken Embraces
7 An Education
8 Mary & Max
9 The Hurt Locker
10 Precious
Link to the List

Kevyn Knox

1 Inglourious Basterds
2 Antichrist
3 The Hurt Locker
4 Public Enemies
5 Red Cliff
6 Watchmen
7 Tetro
8 Drag Me To Hell
9 Gomorrah
10 Star Trek
Link to the List

Harry Knowles
Ain’t It Cool News

1 District 9
2 Where the Wild Things Are
3 Up
4 Inglourious Basterds
5 The Square
6 Private Eye
7 Avatar
8 Moon
9 Bronson
10 Fantastic Mr. Fox
Link to the List

Gary Cogill
WFAA-TV

1 Up in the Air
2 The Hurt Locker
3 Inglourious Basterds
4 Avatar
5 Nine
6 Sherlock Holmes
7 Up
8 Precious
9 Crazy Heart
10 This is It
Link to the List

Chuck Koplinski
Illinois Times

1 Up in the Air
2 The Hurt Locker
3 Up
4 The Messenger
5 The Hangover
6 Fantastic Mr. Fox
7 Precious
8 An Education
9 It Might Get Loud
10 Knowing

C. Rogert Cargill | Gary Cogill | MaryAnn Johanson | Harry Knowles | Kevyn Knox | Chuck Koplinski | Laremy Legel | Kiko Martinez | Amanda Mae Meyncke | Josh Tyler

Page 17

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Link to the List

Peg Aloi

1 Fantastic Mr. Fox
2 Bright Star
3 O’Horten
4 Inglourious Basterds
5 Moon
6 An Education
7 Summer Hours
8 In the Loop
9 Sin Nombre
10 Star Trek
Link to the List

Dwight Brown
Tri-State Defender

1 Avatar
2 Fantastic Mr. Fox
3 Hunger
4 The Hurt Locker
5 Invictus
6 Precious
7 Public Enemes
8 Star Trek
9 This is It
10 Up
Link to the List

Steve Persall

1 Up in the Air
2 Precious
3 (500) Days of Summer
4 District 9
5 Inglourious Basterds
6 The Cove | Food Inc
7 An Education
8 Where the Wild Things Are
9 The Messenger
10 Up
Link to the List

Christy Lemire
Associated Press

1 Moon
2 An Education
3 The Hurt Locker
4 Up
5 District 9
6 A Serious man
7 Fantastic Mr. Fox
8 Sugar
9 Passing Strange
10 Drag Me to Hell
Link to the List

Brian Miller
Seattle Weekly

1 The Maid
2 The Hurt Locker
3 Revanche
4 A Serious Man
5 In the Loop
6 Duplicity
7 The Informant
8 Up
9 Up in the Air
10 Avatar
Link to the List

David Germain

1 The Hurt Locker
2 Precious
3 The White Ribbon
4 Bad Lieutenant
5 Up
6 An Education
7 (500) Days of Summer
8 Passing Strange
9 Anvil! The Story of Anvil
10 The Damned United
Link to the List

Kevin Williamson
Ottawa Sun

1 Up in the Air
2 Up
3 The Hurt Locker
4 The Cove
5 District 9
6 Avatar
7 The Hangover
8 (500) Days of Summer
9 Inglourious Basterds
10 An Education
Link to the List

Lexi Feinberg
BigPictureBigSound

1 (500) Days of Summer
2 A Serious man
3 An Education
4 Inglourious Basterds
5 Up
6 I Love You, Man
7 Up in the Air
8 Precious
9 The Hurt Locker
10 Where the Wild Things Are
Link to the List

Liz Braun
Ottawa Sun

1 A Single Man
2 The Hurt Locker
3 Hunger
4 Crazy Heart
5 Food Inc
6 Gomorrah
7 The Hangover
8 Precious
9 The White Ribbon
10 Sin Nombre
Link to the List

Jim Slotek
Ottawa Sun

1 Up in the Air
2 The Hurt Locker
3 The Road
4 Star Trek
5 Up
6 Anvil! The Story of Anvil
7 The Cove
8 In the Loop
9 The Hangover
10 Avatar

Peg Aloi | Liz Braun | Dwight Brown | Lexi Feinberg | David Germain | Christy Lemire | Brian Miller | Steve Persall | Jim Slotek | Kevin Williamson

Page 16

Thursday, January 21st, 2010


Link to the List

Gary Dretzka

1 The Hurt Locker
2 Up
3 Avatar
4 The Maid
5 The Baader-Meinhof Complex
6 Bronson
7 Up in the Air
8 In the Loop
9 Burma VJ
10 Sin Nombre
Link to the List

Ray Pride

1 Limits of Control
2 The Hurt Locker
3 The Headless Woman
4 A Serious Man
5 Summer Hours
6 Fantastic Mr. Fox
7 Bad Lieutenant
8 Two Lovers
9 Loren Cass
10 Antichrist
Link to the List

Noah Forrest

1 Inglourious Basterds
2 The Hurt Locker
3 Mammoth
4 Tetro
5 The White Ribbon
6 A Serious Man
7 Private Lives of Pippa Lee
8 In the Loop
9 Two Lovers
10 Fantastic Mr. Fox
Link to the List

Kim Voynar

1 Up in the Air
2 The Hurt Locker
3 An Education
4 Goodbye Solo
5 In the Loop
6 A Serious Man
7 Where the Wild Things Are
8 Precious
9 Beaches of Agnes
10 District 9

The MCN Critics | Gary Dretzka | Noah Forrest | Ray Pride | Kim Voynar |

Page 15

Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Link to the List

Jay Stone
Calgary Herald

1 Bad Lieutenant
2 A Serious Man
3 A Single Man
4 District 9
5 The Hurt Locker
6 Anvil! The Story of Anvil
7 Precious
8 Up
9 An Education
10 Fantastic Mr. Fox
Link to the List

Katherine Monk
Calgary Herald

1 The Hurt Locker
2 District 9
3 Polytechnique
4 Up in the Air
5 Summer Hours
6 Up
7 Star Trek
8 Anvil! The Story of Anvil
9 End of the Line
10 The Young Victoria
Link to the List

Barbara Vancheri
Post Gazette

1 Up in the Air
2 The Hurt Locker
3 Up | Princess and the Frog | Fantastic Mr. Fox
4 Precious
5 The Messenger
6 Julie & Julia
7 The Informant
8 Bright Star
9 Anvil! The Story of Anvil
10 Sin Nombre
Link to the List

Scott Marks
KPBS

1 Bright Star
2 Il Divo
3 Mother
4 Adoration
5 The Song of Sparrows
6 Seraphine
7 Still Walking
8 Inglourious Basterds
9 Tony Manero
10 The Box
Link to the List

Rob Thomas
The Capital Times

1 The Hurt Locker
2 (500) Days of Summer
3 Gomorrah
4 An Education
5 Away We Go
6 Hunger
7 The Cove
8 Lake Tahoe
9 Broken Embraces
10 Star Trek
Link to the List

Beth Accomando
KPBS

1 Il Divo
2 A Single Man
3 District 9
4 A Serious man
5 Inglourious Basterds
6 The Song of Sparrows
7 The Hurt Locker
8 Red Cliff
9 Pontypool
10 Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus | Silent Light | Crank: High Voltage
Link to the List

Stephanie Zacharek
Salon

1 Summer Hours
2 Fantastic Mr. Fox
3 Antichrist
4 The September Issue
5 Bright Star
6 Coraline
7 The International
8 Lake Tahoe
9 Broken Embraces
10 Star Trek
Link to the List

Josh Tate
The LAist

1 (500) Days of Summer
2 An Education
3 Anvil! The Story of Anvil
4 Big River Man
5 The Cove
6 Fantastic Mr. Fox
7 In the Loop
8 Men Who Stare at Goats
9 A Serious Man
10 Up
Link to the List

Micheal Compton
BG Daily News

1 Up in the Air
2 The Hurt Locker
3 Inglourious Basterds
4 The Cove
5 (500) Days of Summer
6 Up
7 Food Inc
8 An Education
9 The Messenger
10 Revanche
Link to the List

Iann Robinson
Crave

1 The Hurt Locker
2 The Road
3 Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
4 Where the Wild Things Are
5 World’s Greatest Dad
6 Up
7 (500) Days of Summer
8 The Cove
9 Coraline
10 Star Trek

Beth Accomando | Michael Compton | Scott Marks | Katherine Monk | Iann Robinson | Jay Stone | Josh Tate | Rob Thomas | Barbara Vancheri | Stephanie Zacharek

Page 14

Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Link to the List

Matt Singer

1 Two Lovers
2 Summer Hours
3 Drag Me to Hell
4 Up
5 Anvil! The Story of Anvil
6 The Hurt Locker
7 The Headless Woman
8 In the Loop
9 The White Ribbon
10 Crank: High Voltage
Link to the List

Alison Willmore
IFC

1 You, the Living
2 Fantastic Mr. Fox
3 The Hurt Locker
4 The Headless Woman
5 A Twon Called Panic
6 Somers Town
7 Public Enemies
8 A Serious Man
9 Paradise
10 The Missing Person
Link to the List

Stephen King
Entertainment Weekly

1 The Hurt Locker
2 Last House on the Left
3 The Road
4 Disgrace
5 The Reader
6 District 9
7 Law Abiding Citizen
8 The Taking of Pelham 123
9 Fantastic Mr. Fox
10 2012
Link to the List

Michael Atkinson
IFC

1 Made in the USA
2 The Headless Woman
3 Inglourious Basterds
4 I’m Gonna Explode
5 Hunger
6 The Baader Meinhof Comples
7 Up
8 Night and Day
9 You, the Living
10 Three Monkeys
Link to the List

Kim Brown

1 The Hurt Locker
2 Up in the Air
3 An Education
4 (500) Days of Summer
5 The Road
6 Precious
7 Inglourious Basterds
8 Up
9 A Single Man
10 Bright Star
Link to the List

John Harding
Cantonsville Times

1 The Hurt Locker
2 A Serious Man
3 Up in the Air
4 Beaches of Agnes
5 Up
6 Nine
7 In the Loop
8 The young Victoria
9 This is It!
10 The English Surgeon
Link to the List

Brian Tallerico
Movie Retriever

1 Where the Wild Things Are
2 The Hurt Locker
3 Up in the Air
4 The White Ribbon
5 An Education
6 Bright Star
7 Star Trek
8 Sin Nombre
9 Goodbye Solo
10 Inglourious Basterds
Link to the List

Mike Giuliano
Cantonsville Times

1 Up in the Air
2 Bright Star
3 Julie & Julia
4 The Messenger
5 Tetro
6 Invictus
7 Star Trek
8 A Serious man
9 Inglourious Basterds
10 Everybody’s Fine
Link to the List

Matthew Hays
Montreal Mirror

1 Pontypool
2 Bruno
3 Inglourious Basterds
4 I Killed My Mother
5 Captialism: A Love Story
6 Precious
7 Petropolis
8 A Single Man
9 The Queen and I
10 Cairo Time
Link to the List

Marc Savlov
Austin Chronicle

1 A Single Man
2 12
3 Moon
4 Antichrist
5 Bad Lieutenant
6 The Cove
7 The Hurt Locker
8 Up
9 Inglourious Basterds
10 In the Loop

Michael Atkinson | Kim Brown | Mike Giuliano | John Harding | Matthew Hays | Stephen King | Marc Savlov | Matt Singer | Brian Tallerico | Alison Willmore

Page 13

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Link to the List

Malcolm Fraser
Montreal Mirror

1 Anvil! Story of Anvil
2 Bad Lieutenant
3 A Serious Man
4 I Love You, Man
5 Adventureland
6 Drag Me To Hell
7 Last Train Home
8 (500) Days of Summer
9 I Killed My Mother
10 Antichrist
Link to the List

Christopher Sykes
Montreal Mirror

1 The Class
2 35 Shots of Rum
3 Where the Wild Things Are
4 Tulpan
5 Up
6 The Hurt Locker
7 Sin Nombre
8 District 9
9 Antichrist
10 The Hangover
Link to the List

Andy Klein
Brand X

1 In the Loop
2 35 Shots of Rum
3 Red Cliff
4 Inglourious Basterds
5 Up
6 Up in the Air | Hurt Locker
7 A Serious man
8 The Fantastic Mr. Fox
9 Tokyo Sonata
10 Star Trek
Link to the List

Mark Slutsky
Montreal Mirror

1 Inglourious Basterds
2 A Serious Man
3 Bad Lieutenant
4 Bright Star
5 Public Enemies
6 The Hurt Locker
7 Antichrist
8 Two Lovers
9 District 9
10
Link to the List

Keith Cohen
Sun Publications

1 Invictus
2 Departures
3 Gran Torino
4 It’s Complicated
5 The Princess & the Frog
6 Defiance
7 Every Little Step
8 Up in the Air
9 Up
10 An Education
Link to the List

Jeffrey M. Anderson
Cinematical

1 The Hurt Locker
2 Coraline
3 Bright Star
4 Red Cliff
5 You, The Living
6 35 Shots of Rum
7 Drag Me To Hell
8 Sita Sings the Blues
9 Inglourious Basterds
10 Adventureland
Link to the List

Jeff Walls
Seattle Post Intelligencer

1 (500) Days of Summer
2 Avatar
3 Star Trek
4 Up
5 A Serious Man
6 An Education
7 Fantastic Mr. Fox
8 The Hurt Locker
9 District 9
10 Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince
Link to the List

Mike Ward
Richmond.com

1 Up in the Air
2 State of Play
3 Inglourious Basterds
4 The Hurt Locker
5 Zombieland
6 Up
7 The Road
8 District 9
9 The Damned United
10 The Messenger
Link to the List

Tom Charity
CNN

1 A Serious Man
2 Ponyo
3 Inglourious Basterds
4 Two Lovers
5 Coraline
6 The Headless Woman
7 The Hurt Locker
8 Bright Star
9 Fantastic Mr. Fox
10 La Danse
Link to the List

Jack Garner
RocNow

1 The Hurt Locker
2 Up in the Air
3 Fantastic Mr. Fox
4 Avatar
5 Precious
6 Inglourious Basterds
7 Up
8 The Young Victoria
9 Me & Orson Welles
10 This is It!

Jeffrey M. Anderson | Tom Charity | Keith Cohen | Malcolm Fraser | Jack Garner | Andy Klein | Mark Slutsky | Christopher Sykes | Jeff Walls | Mike Ward

Page 12

Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Link to the List

Zorianna Kit
California Literary Review

1 The Hurt Locker
2 A Serious Man
3 A Single Man
4 An Education
5 Precious
6 Inglourious Basterds
7 The Hangover
8 The Cove
9 Avatar
10 Up
Link to the List

Joanne Thornborough
The Daily Journal

1 The Hurt Locker
2 An Education
3 Fantastic Mr. Fox
4 Up in the Air
5 Drag Me To Hell
6 Inglourious Basterds
7 Up
8 Public Enemies
9 (500) Days of Summer
10 The Informant!
Link to the List

Josh Board
San Diego Reader

1 Avatar
2 Up
3 Funny People
4 A Serious Man
5 The Messenger
6 Anvil! The Story of Anvil
7 Good Hair
8 (500) Days of Summer
9 Moon
10 Adventureland
Link to the List

Joan Vadeboncoeur
Syracuse Post Standard

1 The Hurt Locker
2 Up in the Air
3 Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
4 Precious
5 The Young Victoria
6 Paranormal Activity
7 District 9
8 The Road
9 Star Trek
10 (500) Days of Summer
Link to the List

David Ansen
Newsweek

1 The Hurt Locker
2 Summer Hours
3 Up in the Air
4 In the Loop
5 Fantastic Mr. Fox
6 Up
7 Seraphine
8 Rudo y Cursi
9 Avatar
10 An Education
Link to the List

Richard Roeper
Chicago Sun Times

1 A Christmas Tale
2 Silent Light
3 Wendy & Lucy
4 Goodbye Solo
5 Summer Hours
6 Hunger
7 Fantastic Mr. Fox
8 Lorna’s Silence
9 Che
10 Up
Link to the List

Melissa Starker
Columbus Alive

1 Up
2 A Serious man
3 Up in the Air
4 The Hurt Locker
5 Sugar
6 Hunger
7 Fantastic Mr. Fox
8 The Class
9 Star Trek
10 Food Inc
Link to the List

Dave Mar
Athens Flagpole

1 A Christmas Tale
2 Silent Light
3 Wendy & Lucy
4 Goodbye Solo
5 Summer Hours
6 Hunger
7 Fantastic Mr. Fox
8 Lorna’s Silence
9 Che
10 Up
Link to the List

Barry Koltnow
Orange County Register

1 Up in the Air
2 Sunshine Cleaning
3 Zombieland
4 The Hurt locker
5 (500) Days of Summer
6 District 9
7 Star Trek
8 Adventureland
9 Avatar
10 Nine
Link to the List

Jim Luksic
Santa Ynez Valley Journal

1 Seraphine
2 The Hurt Locker
3 Inglourious Basterds
4 Moon
5 Public Enemies
6 Precious
7 A Serious Man
8 District 9
9 Julie & Julia
10 Brothers

David Ansen | Josh Board | Zorianna Kit | Barry Koltnow | Jim Luksic | Dave Mar | Richard Roeper | Melissa Starker | Joanne Thornborough | Joan Vandeboncoeur

Page 11

Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Link to the List

Chas Andrews
Louisville Mojo

1 Star Trek
2 The Hangover
3 District 9
4 Inglourious Basterds
5 Capitalism: A Love Story
6 Paranormal Activity
7 The Blind Side
8 Me & Orson Welles
9 Avatar
10
Link to the List

Mick LaSalle
SF Chronicle

1 Inglourious Basterds
2 The Hurt Locker
3 Up in the Air
4 Two Lovers
5 Revanche
6 Funny People
7 Precious
8 Cheri
9 Summer Hours
10 Food, Inc
Link to the List

Stephen Rea
Philadelphia Inquirer

1 Avatar
2 Bright Star
3 An Education
4 Fantastic Mr. Fox
5 Goodbye Solo
6 The Hurt Locker
7 A Serious Man
8 Sugar
9 35 Shots of Rum
10 Up in the Air
Link to the List

Mick LaSalle
SF Chronicle

1 Inglourious Basterds
2 The Hurt Locker
3 Up in the Air
4 Two Lovers
5 Revanche
6 Funny People
7 Precious
8 Cheri
9 Summer Hours
10 Food, Inc

Chas Andrews | Mick LaSalle | Stephen Rea |

Page 10

Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Link to the List

Joshua Rothkopf
Time Out New York

1 A Serious Man
2 Still Walking
3 Two Lovers
4 Star Trek
5 The Hurt Locker
6 Anvil! The Story of Anvil
7 Summer Hours
8 The House of the Devil
9 Somers Town
10 Funny People
Link to the List

Keith Uhlich
Time Out New York

1 The Limits of Control
2 Night and Day
3 California Dreamin’
4 Two Lovers
5 My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done
6 Lorna’s Silence
7 Public Enemies
8 A Christmas Carol
9 The Box
10 Inglourious Basterds
Link to the List

Rex Reed
NY Observer

1 An Education
2 The Road
3 Up in the Air
4 Julie & Julia
5 Public Enemies
6 Precious
7 The Last Station
8 The Hurt Locker
9 The Messenger
10 Inglourious Basterds
Link to the List

David Fear
Time Out New York

1 35 Shots of Rum
2 Summer Hours
3 The Hurt Locker
4 Sugar
5 The Headless Woman
6 A Serious Man
7 Hunger
8 Still Walking
9 Treeless Mountain
10 Bronson
Link to the List

Erik Morse
SF Bay Guardian

1 Inglourious Basterds
2 The Missing Person
3 The Beaches of Agnes
4 Coraline
5 Still Walking
6 The Hurt Locker
7 The White Ribbon
8 Mother
9 Broken Embraces
10 Thirst
Link to the List

Ty Burr
Boston Globe

1 A Serious Man
2 Avatar | 35 Shots of Rum
3 Fantastic Mr. Fox | Up
4 The Hurt Locker | The Messenger
5 Up in the Air | Summer Hours
6 Bright Star | The Last Station
7 Precious | An Education
8 A Single Man | Bad Lieutenant
9 Star Trek | Antichrist
10 Afghan Star | Big Fan
Link to the List

Keith Phipps
The AV Club

1 A Serious Man
2 In the Loop
3 Where the Wild Things Are
4 Gomorrah
5 Broken Embraces
6 Antichrist
7 Fantastic Mr. Fox
8 Summer Hours
9 The White Ribbon
10 The Hurt Locker
Link to the List

Cheryl Eddy
SF Bay Guardian

1 Bad Lieutenant
2 Beeswax
3 Cropsey
4 District 9
5 Drag Me To Hell
6 An Education
7 Goodbye Solo
8 The Hurt Locker
9 Inglorious Basterds
10 Tokyo Sonata
Link to the List

Ken Eisner
Georgia Straight

1 UP in the Air
2 Me & Orson Welles
3 Broken Embraces
4 An Education
5 Summer Hours
6 The Necessities of Life
7 Food, Inc
8 Fantastic Mr. Fox
9 A Serious Man
10 Inglourious Basterds
Link to the List

Noel Murray
The AV Club

1 Inglourious Basterds
2 A Serious Man
3 Public Enemies
4 Up
5 Still Walking
6 Julia
7 Duplicity
8 Fantastic Mr. Fox
9 Funny People
10 Passing Strange

Ty Burr | Cheryl Eddy | David Fear | Ken Eisner | Erik Morse | Noel Murray | Keith Phipps | Rex Reed | Joshua Rothkopf | Keith Uhlich

Page 9

Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Link to the List

Scott Foundas
LA Weekly

1 The White Ribbon
2 Inglourious Basterds | Police, Adjective
3 The Hurt Locker
4 Public Enemies
5 Avatar
6 District 9 | Invictus
7 24 City | Up in the Air
8 Fantastic Mr. Fox | Where the Wild Things Are
9 The Headless Woman
10 Beaches of Agnes | Passing Strange | Tyson
Link to the List

Kyle Buchanan
Movieline

1 Coraline
2 Where the Wild Things Are
3 Antichrist
4 A Prophet
5 Humpday
6 Funny People
7 Precious
8 A Single Man
9 The Hurt Locker
10 The Messenger
Link to the List

Eugene Hernandez
IndieWIRE

1 The Beaches of Agnes
2 Broken Embraces
3 Frontier of Dawn
4 Fados
5 I’m Gonna Explode
6 La Danse
7 A Single Man
8 Still Walking
9 Summer Hours
10 Throw Down Your Heart
Link to the List

Bruce Ingram
Pioneer Press

1 Avatar
2 Coraline
3 Fantastic Mr. Fox
4 The Hurt Locker
5 In the Loop
6 Moon
7 Public Enemies
8 Star Trek
9 Up
10 Up in the Air
Link to the List

Brian Brooks
IndieWIRE

1 The Hurt Locker
2