Posts Tagged ‘Knight and Day’

Sundance, Top Tens and Critics Groups. Oh. My.

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

2010 is a wrap, 2011 is here, but for most of us who write in this industry, until we get past February it’s all about Sundance and Oscar. The publicist letters about Sundance slates start hitting inboxes during the Winter Break (I send them straight to the “Sundance” file until after the new year, because I am getting old and grumpy and more hardcore about guarding family time these days) and don’t stop coming until about midway through the fest.

And of course, because the Academy has a twisted sense of humor, Oscar nominees are announced at the asscrack of dawn during Sundance, when everyone is running around Park City trying not to slip on the ice and break anything or freeze to death at a shuttle stop. Or both.
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Non-Review – The Tourist

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

How does this happen twice in one year?

The script for The Tourist is better than the script for Knight & Day, but both were completely workable ideas with completely workable screenplays and each had two major movie stars who could absolutely deliver on the core idea of these films… retro Hitchcokian/Wilderian thrillers with a sense of humor and fun roles for their stars.

And both fail to deliver because both films picked the wrong director.

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck made a great film in The Lives of Others. It is intimate and smart and demanding… which is not only the opposite of what The Tourist is, but is the opposite of the intent of The Tourist. It’s palpable from the first scenes of the film… something is amiss… the film is like watching a woman in a very tight pencil skirt trying to trudge through 2 foot deep mud while showing no signs of the difficulty on her face. What the HELL are they up to? It’s not Mission: Impossible (or Salt). It’s not really a drama. And if it’s meant to be mysterious, perhaps they needed to have something real to unravel. And then Depp shows up… in a comedy performance. He and Jolie work haaaaard to try to make it work. But this terrific director… uh… how to put it…

They had a romantic thriller that might well have starred Cary Grant and Grace Kelly… light on its feet… airy… funny… and they hired a German director!!!!

With due respect to Germans who have a gift for light comedy… seriously… I loved Mostly Martha, but even that director would not be the right fit for this material.

Oy.

And Knight & Day? James Mangold has delivered big for pretty much every movie star he has ever worked with. Nominations and good box office all over the place. And K&D wasn’t a disaster, financially or creatively. But it needed a light touch that the director of Walk The Line, Girl, Interrupted, and Copland was not the right guy. I have come to like and appreciate Mangold more and more over the years. But funny? No.

It reminds you of how delicate good movies are. And how really talented people can be just the wrong people for a particular project.

The script for The Tourist is, I think, better… but I think Knight & Day is the better film. But both films could well have been great fun for audiences… romps that would be watched over and over again… the kind of films that make you smile – and stop – when you remote past them on your cable/satellite when they get there, just for a moment, and then dragging you in.

But they aren’t. Sigh.

Weekend Box Office Report — December 5

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

The Warrior’s Weigh

The first weekend of December has the ignominious tradition of being one of the lowest moviegoing periods of the year. This year is no exception with but a single new wide release and holdover titles generally experiencing declines of more than 50%.

The newcomer arrived from the re-constituted Relativity Media with the martial arts actioner The Warrior’s Way. It barely squeaked into the top 10 with an estimated $3 million. Industry trackers hadn’t expected much for the picture but even their estimates were pegged significantly higher at roughly $5 million.

The frame leader was the animated Tangled with an estimated $21.5 million with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 taking the consolation prize with $16.9 million. The rest of the holdovers were indeed the deathly hallows.

However, there were a couple of spectacular exclusive debuts. The controversial and intense drama Black Swan bowed to $1.4 million, which translated into a jaw dropping per engagement average of $76,670. And the left-for-dead black comedy I Love You Phillip Morris hit the target with $109,000 from six locations and an $18,200 average. Also encouraging was the two-screen bow of the ironically titled All Good Things with $37,500.

The rest of the new niche crowd ranged from fair to poor including several new films on the Indian circuit, the independent Night Catches Us and the documentary Bhutto.

All added up, revenues amounted to about $86 million and a 54% drop from the weekend slice of Thanksgiving. It was also off 15% from the 2009 edition when the top new entry was third-ranked Brothers with $9.5 million. The 2009 leader with $20 million was The Blind Side.

Domestic box office should push past $10 billion next weekend and register a slight gain for the year when the dust settles in 26 days. It also unquestionably marks another year of theatrical admission declines; likely between 5% and 7%.

As to award’s contenders, it remains anyone’s game and last week’s announcement of honors from the National Board of Review provided scant indication of what’s to follow from major critical groups or the Hollywood Foreign Press. Apart from James L. Brooks’ How Do You Know, the anticipated upcoming releases have been seen and left prognosticators fumbling to identify leaders in any of the talent categories.

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Weekend Estimates – December 3-5, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Tangled BV 21.5 (5,970) -56% 3603 96.5
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hollows, Part 1* WB 16.9 (4,090) -66% 4125 244.4
Burlesque Sony 6.1 (2,020) -49% 3037 27
Unstoppable Fox 6.1 (1,930) -47% 3152 68.9
Love and Other Drugs Fox 5.7 (2,310) -42% 2458 22.6
Megamind Par 4.9 (1,550) -61% 3173 136.6
Due Date WB 4.2 (1,720) -41% 2450 91
Faster CBS 3.8 (1,550) -55% 2470 18.1
The Warrior’s Way Relativity 3.0 (1,870) NEW 1622 3
The Next Three Days Lionsgate 2.6 (1,150) -45% 2236 18.3
Morning Glory Par 1.7 (760) -56% 2263 29.1
127 Hours Fox Searchlight 1.6 (3,790) -4% 433 6.6
Black Swan Fox Searchlight 1.4 (76,670) NEW 18 1.4
Fair Game Summit 1.0 (2,320) -27% 436 7.3
Red Summit .75 (960) -45% 779 87.2
For Colored Girls … Lionsgate .45 (930) -67% 485 37.3
Lance et compte Seville .43 (4,480) -31% 96 1.3
Skyline Uni/Alliance .42 (730) -63% 578 20.9
The Social Network Sony .41 (1,580) -42% 260 91
The King’s Speech Weinstein Co. .32 (53,000) -10% 6 0.8
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $81.25
% Change (Last Year) -15%
% Change (Last Week) -54%
Also debuting/expanding
I Love You Phillip Morris Roadside .11 (18,200) 6 0.11
Raktacharitra 2 Viva/Happy 94,200 (4,100) 23 0.09
Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey Viva 65,300 (960) 68 0.07
Nutcracker 3D FreeStyle 45,700 (1,040) -31% 44 0.14
Made in Dagenham Sony Classics 39,600 (3,600) -37% 11 0.18
All Good Things Magnolia 37,500 (18,750) 2 0.04
Dead Awake New Film 31,400 (570) 55 0.03
Mar Jawan Gur Khake Punjabi 18,800 (6,270) 3 0.02
Night Catches Us Magnolia 12,100 (3,020) 4 0.01
Bhutto First Run 7,800 (3,900) 2 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Dec. 2, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (27) 1792.9 18.40%
Paramount (18) 1609.2 16.50%
Fox (18) 1371.7 14.00%
Buena Vista (16) 1252.3 12.80%
Sony (24) 1185.4 12.10%
Universal (18) 797.2 8.20%
Summit (11) 517.9 5.30%
Lionsgate (15) 512.4 5.20%
Fox Searchlight (7) 84.7 0.90%
Overture (7) 81.9 0.80%
Focus (7) 75.2 0.80%
CBS (3) 64.2 0.70%
Weinstein Co. (8) 63.1 0.70%
Sony Classics (22) 58.7 0.60%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.50%
Other * (301) 246.6 2.50%
9763.8 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Global Grossers * (Jan. 1 – Dec. 2, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 1,955,694,414
Toy Story 3 BV 1,065,128,004
Alice in Wonderland BV 1,024,537,295
Inception WB 840,550,911
Shrek Forever After Par 738,351,966
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 699,325,617
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 WB 634,033,738
Iron Man 2 Par 622,718,600
Despicable Me Uni 534,415,944
How to Train Your Dragon Par 495,921,283
Clash of the Titans WB 489,778,913
Sherlock Holmes * WB 367,796,599
The Karate Kid Sony 359,429,551
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time BV 335,816,141
The Last Airbender Par 319,062,129
Robin Hood Uni 312,207,159
Shutter Island Par 301,977,955
Sex and the City 2 WB 301,158,934
Salt Sony 293,955,694
Resident Evil: Afterlife Sony/Alliance 292,972,689
The Expendables Lionsgate 272,550,235
Grown Ups Sony 271,417,359
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Fox 264,341,533
Knight and Day Fox 261,206,060
Percy Jackson & the Olympians Fox 226,497,298
* does not include 2009 box office

MW on DVDs: Antichrist, Liverpool, Moonfleet, Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 … and more

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

CO-PICKS OF THE WEEK: NEW

Antichrist (Two Discs) (Three and a Half Stars)

Denmark/U.S.A.: Lars von Trier, 2009 (Criterion Collection)

Lars von Trier strikes again. The beginning looks like a poor man’s Citizen Kane which segues into a disease-of-the-month teleplay that becomes a Sam Shepard two-character Gothic pop drama in the deep woods, and then finally goes full-bore horror and metamorphosizes into something almost as creepily violent and nauseatingly graphic as the Saw movies.
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Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg (Cannes “best actress” winner for this) are a couple who lost their infant son, who was playing at an open window while they were preoccupied, making love. He’s a therapist; she’s a sexual historian specializing in bad women. This couple proves here that there are some things you just can’t talk out, especially when there are chains and axes lying around.

Lars von Trier isn’t a likable director, and I think there’s a genuinely sadistic element to his vision, which comes exploding out here. But it is a vision, and he’s a real filmmaker. Be aware that this movie is going to repel and annoy and maybe creep you out. Then watch it, if you can.

Antichrist, by the way, is dedicated to the late Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky (Solaris, Andrei Roublev), whose lyrical influence is visible in some of the forest scenes. I can‘t imagine Tarkovsky liking Antichrist, but I may be wrong.

Extras: Commentary with von Trier; Video interviews with von Trier, Dafoe and Gainsbourg; Seven video pieces on Antichrist; “Chaos Reigns at the Cannes Film Festival,” a documentary on the film and the furor it caused at Cannes; Booklet with essay by Ian Christie.

Liverpool (Three and a Half Stars)
Argentina: Lisandro Alonso, 2009 (Kino)

Another excellent minimalist, neo-realist quest film from the writer-director of La Libertad and La Loi: here, a taciturn Argentine sailor (played by non-professional Juan Fernandez), journeys form the port city where his ship is docked, to the small Tierra del Fuego logging town where he once abandoned his family and where his old mother now lies dying.

The dialogue is spare, the scenes tend to be one-take tableaux with moving camera, the mood is sad and restrained. Here is a picture of common people done without sentimentality, but with great reservoirs of unspoken feeling. Among modern minimalist art film directors, Alonso is one of the best. His landscapes and people stay in your mind like visions of the real world haunting us like waking dreams. (In Spanish, with English subtitles)

Extras: Booklet with Alonso interview; Stills gallery.

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COPICKS OF THE WEEK: CLASSICS

Moonfleet (Three Stars)

U. S.: Fritz Lang, 1955 (Warner Archive)

Fritz Lang isn’t known for swashbucklers, but this adaptation of the lusty best-selling novel by A. Meade Falkner — in which Stewart Granger plays a dashing, lusty, sword-slashing outlaw on the Dorsetshire coast — is both lush-looking and exciting, though befitting Lang’s roots as king of noir, a lot of it takes place in the dark.

Granger, playing Jeremy Fox, connects up in various ways with the cad’s cad George Sanders, witchy Joan Greenwood, solemn Viveca Lindfors, and various brawny tavern thugs, though his heart seems to belong to child actor Jon Whiteley, who acts if his character just wandered in from a Robert Louis Stevenson novel. (Whiteley himself seems just too early for the Oliver! additions.)

Warning: Though the staff of Cahiers du Cinema liked Moonfleet a lot, ranking it high on their 1960 “best” lists, this movie is not half as good as Metropolis — though you may want to sharpen your Lang chops by sampling it. Made on demand. Link warnerarchive.com or wbshop.com.

One Way Passage (Three and a Half Stars)

U.S.: Tay Garnett, 1932 (Warner Archive)

A neglected gem, beloved by French Cahiers-style cinephiles — in which William Powell, as a fugitive murderer, being transported to San Quentin, and Kay Francis, as a fatally ill socialite, enact one of the best Hollywood shipboard romances ever. This is one classic you may not have seen; the rest of the cast includes Warren Hymer as the hardboiled cop who caught Powell, Frank McHugh as a chortling pickpocket and con man, Roscoe Karns tending the ship bar, and Aline MacMahon as a phony countess.

The only Tay Garnett movie as good as this one is the John Garfield-Lana Turner version of The Postman Always Rings Twice. (Here, he rings twice too.) Made on demand by Warner Archive Collection. Link warnerbrothersarchive.com or wbshop.com.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: BLU-RAY

Knight and Day (3 Disc Blu-ray DVD Combo; Also DVD) (Three Stars)

U.S.; James Mangold, 2010

Knight and Day, doesn’t make much sense, but do we really want it to?

Giving us an eyeful of Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz — as Roy Miller and June Havens, a couple pursued (seemingly) all around the world by rogue C.I.A. agents and murderous international gun-runners, all after a mysterious new energy source called The Maguffin (excuse me, The Zephyr) — this is a big, splashy top-star romantic comedy that tosses logic to the winds. It‘s a nightmare fantasy love-on-the-run chase thriller and it tries to revive some of the glamour, fun, and crazy paranoia of a classic suspense romp like North by Northwest or Charade, while pulling them into a CGI era spin.

Sometimes, it succeeds.

Actually, Knight and Day is a movie so charmingly senseless, so knowingly and unrepentantly way over the top, and so cannily exploitive of the killer grins and happily narcissistic sex appeal of both Cruise and Diaz, that it entertains you almost in spite of yourself. I kept waiting to get tired of it, but the movie was always a skip or two ahead of me. It kept me smiling, even though it doesn’t really have an original bone in its body (any more than Cruise or Diaz have a tooth out of place in their smiles).

Did we just see Roy and June meet cute in the Wichita airport, banging heads over June‘s over packed luggage? Soon they’re on a strangely under-populated plane to Boston, flirting like mad, and when June takes a bathroom break to hyperventilate over Roy’s sheer cuteness, the entire population of the plane disappears — before the plane crashes in a cornfield (North by Northwest) and Roy slips June a mickey, the first of many. (To get her through the bad spots, or so he says, Roy keeps drugging his ladylove unconscious — a treatment the movie‘s detractors may wish for themselves.)

Has June just tumbled into the hands of Roy’s antagonist, the maybe sinister FBI agent Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard), about whom she‘s been warned by Roy? Soon, they’re all in a mad Boston freeway chase, with Roy bounding from roof to roof like the young Jackie Chan, and June driving the driverless car (“You’ve got skills,“ Roy admiringly marvels after popping through a window to take the wheel), while guns blaze, windows shatter, cars flip, and bad guys splatter like ripe tomatoes.

You can’t walk into a warehouse in this movie, without dozens of CIA ninja-looking commandos dropping though the roof on you. You can barely board a plane without everybody getting killed. You can’t try for a little star-to-star smooching without a fresh troupe of killers and kibitzers running by. And, as for that Maguffin, you get the definite feeling that if we don’t get a new energy source by this movie’s end, Knight and Day may have used up half the world’s existing oil reserves in car chases and explosions (and hair oil for Cruise). “There’s a reason for everything,” Roy tells June as he cuts aboard the Boston plane ahead of her. Sure. Sure.

The movie is senseless, and its also too fast and loud and relentlessly CGI-filled, but it’s fun to watch anyway. Anyway, complaining about the senselessness of a big Hollywood action movie may be a bit like walking into a bordello and complaining that there are no prayer meetings. I‘m just grateful that one of these exploding blockbusters could laugh at itself.

What makes Knight work, is the way Cruise’s Roy and Diaz’s June keep reacting to the chaos around them. He‘s bewildered and nervous at first, starting about the time she sees a planeload of passengers roll off their seats, but he keeps smiling and trying to calm her down, explaining that he‘s a pro, that he’s on top of everything and that everything will be all right. There’s even a loony logic in his response; after all, he is Tom Cruise, and he is going to survive anything that director James Mangold (Walk the Line and 3:10 to Yuma) and co-writer Patrick O‘Neill throw at him.

Their movie is a bit like Scream, the reflexive horror move that kept commenting on itself. Roy and June don’t talk about North by Northwest; they just live it, magnified. Knight and Day, at its best, is a reflexive action thriller-rom-com that keeps grinning at itself. And, in Cruise and Diaz, it has two of the worlds champion grinners.

Extras: Featurettes.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: CLASSIC & BOX SET

Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 (Four Disc Blu-ray/DVD Special Collection) (Four Stars)

United States: Various Directors, 1940, 2000 (Walt Disney)

Ah, Fantasia!

I first saw Walt Disney’s spectacularly ambitious 1940 attempt to fuse animation and classical music — or at least the segment with a Bacchanalian mythological revels set to Beethoven‘s “Pastoral Symphony“ — on a small black and white T.V. showing the old ‘50s show Disneyland. It was a weekday school night. I was only twelve or so. I knew classical music a little, because my mother played Beethoven almost every night on our old upright piano. But I’d heard precious little orchestral music yet, and that animated rhapsody on Disneyland (one of my favorite shows) knocked me out, enraptured me.

I’ve seen the movie many times since, in theaters or on television or video players, I just saw it again on this newly released DVD package, in a new digital restoration. It always enthralls and delights me. I never feel the kitsch overwhelming the classics or vice versa. The great orchestral musical pieces chosen by Disney, his people, and by the film’s conductor, Leopold Stokowski — major works by Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Schubert, Mussorgsky and Ponchielli — sound superb to me still, even after hearing many other versions by many other musicians.

And the Disney-drawn images, creatures and phantasms that dance to them — from twisting protozoa, to thrashing tyrannosauruses, to tutu-skirted hippos and lecherous crocodiles, to waltzing centaurs and sky-sweeping Pegasuses (Pegasi?), and to little Mickey Mouse himself, desperately trying to stave off a horde of over-enthusiastic water-carrying magical brooms who are sloshing and drowning his boss‘ sorcerer’s den — move and amuse me as much as ever. You’ve just never heard Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours” ‘til you see it danced by a Disney ostrich and a line of leaping elephants.

What a wonderful idea: For the Disney Studio at the peak of its early cartoon power and glory, to set pieces of great classical music, by the greatest composers, played by one of the era‘s finest conductors and orchestras (Leopold Stokowski and his Philadelphians) — to cartoon sequences, in state-of-the-art animation, which was then, indisputably at the Disney Studio.

Disney and Stokowski concoct and execute us a fabulous program, with critic-host Deems Taylor’s urbane introduction leading into an abstract visual poem, set to Bach’s overwhelming “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” (Stokowski‘s transcription of course). Then there‘s a dance of twirling flora set to Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” a ballet of the non-creationist creation of the earth, up through the dinosaur age, set to Stravinsky‘s “Rite of Spring”; a wondrous little fairytale, starring Mickey Mouse (with voice by Walt), set to Dukas’ ’The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (directed, to his eternal glory, by James Algar); that Beethoven orgy of Greek gods and mytho-beasts set to Ludwig van‘s “Pastoral Symphony”; the multi-species ballet and seduction romp of Ponchielli‘s “Hours,” and finally the double finale of profane and sacred, of the devils erupting in the Walpurgisnacht of Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” and worshippers carrying candles against the backdrop of Schubert’s “Ave Maria.”

In the midst of it all, in one of my favorite moments of the movie, after the very best section (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), Mickey bounds up to the podium, in a tux, cq to pull at Stokowski’s tails and squeak excitedly (in the voice supplied by Walt) “Congratulations, Mr. Stokowski!” after which Stokowski generously replies (one colleague to another) “And congratulations to you too, Mickey.”

I still love it. How could you not? But I think I know why Fantasia wasn’t popular with the same Depression audiences that worshipped Disney‘s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The movie, which may be a little too sophisticated even for today’s Tea Party Crowd, also may have had too much profane or secular stuff (including a sequence based on evolution, and others showing romps with pagan gods, sorcerers, bare-breasted centaurettes, devils and Satanic revels, plus inter-species seductions) and not enough sacred (only “Ave Maria” at dawn to wipe all the debbils away).

Disney became a famous Hollywood conservative, but I wouldn‘t be surprised even today to see a Fox=man like Glenn Beck haul out his blackboard, and start waving his chalk and proclaiming “Fantasia” a Communist, paganist, anti-creationist plot, with all the fervor with which Beck “exposed” the Marxist agenda of that hilarious ecological funny-penguin cartoon Happy Feet. How would Depression audiences have taken it all? (With a sense of humor, I hope.)

On the other side of the fence, if you’re a bit of a snob, you may have heard or read composer Igor Stravinsky’s sour dismissal of Stokowski’s performance of Stravinsky’s great ballet score “Le Sacre du Printemps” (a Franco-Russian plot?) as “execrable,” as well as Stravinsky’s squelch of Disney‘s “dinosaur” ballet as “an unoffending imbecility“ — and you may have decided that the smart people should be against Fantasia.

But it didn’t sound execrable or look imbecilic to the 12 year old me back then. Nor does it look that way to the much older me today. Besides, Stravinsky was angry that he wasn’t being properly, financially compensated by Disney, and he could be a bit of a prick himself.
Anyway, Stokowski could conduct. The music soars. The colors and creatures blaze. Dreams leap up around us and whirl like ballerinas gone mad. I hope they always will, for all the twelve year olds in small towns who have yet to experience “Fantasia,“ and will be spellbound when they do.
It is the seemingly unlikely teaming of the classical (Stokowski and the great composers) and the popular (Walt Disney and his great mouse, Mickey) that accounts for “Fantasia’s” power to entertain and lift us up. And though we’ll probably never see “Fantasia” in a major theatrical release again, here it is, in DVD and Blu-ray, in High Definition picture and sound, packaged with “Fantasia 2000” — a labor of love from Walt’s nephew, Roy E. Disney, the man truly behind the resurgence of Disney animation in the 80s and ’90s. The four-disc combo pack also has another of Roy’s obsessions, the 2003 completion of the short cartoon “Destino,“ the fabled joint collaboration between Disney and surrealist painter Salvador Dali.

Whatever the reasons, “Fantasia” didn’t really attract 1940 audiences, and it’s too bad. Disney wanted it to be a continuous ongoing project, like the Silly Symphonies were, with new segments added, new “Fantasias” born, a classical circle of life, eternally renewing, the rites of spring. That would have been wonderful. (Think what Disney could have done, in the ’50s and ’60s, with Leonard Bernstein.) But the audiences deserted him somewhat for both his 1940 masterpieces, “Fantasia“ and “Pinocchio,” and Disney had to scale back his ambitions. His next movie was 1941’s more modest “Dumbo” (which I love too, by the way).

Mickey and Maestro Stokowski never met and shook hands again, except, of course, whenever “The Sorcerer‘s Apprentice” plays.

As they do in Fantasia 2000. Roy Disney, the man who hired all the people (or hired the people who hired the people) who, along with Roy, brought about the Disney Studio‘s ‘80s renaissance — and who took over animation, and committed himself to the animation projects that bore such spectacular fruit, for Disney and everyone else — is someone who deserves much, much more credit than he usually gets, for everything from The Little Mermaid on. Roy‘s the one who wanted most to revive his Uncle Walt‘s dream. And did.

Roy‘s grand project Fantasia 2000 is a true continuation, even to reprising “Sorcerer’s Apprentice.“ It has a lot of all-star hosts (from Steve Martin, Quincy Jones and Better Midler, to Izhtak Perlman), and good, lively, painstaking versions, performed by James Levine and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, of Beethoven’s Fifth (another abstract spree) Respighi‘s “Pines of Rome (whales dancing near the Pole), and Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” ( an Al Hirschfeldian ensemble of Manhattan dreamers).

Then: Hans Christian Andersen’s macabre and poignant romance “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” done surprisingly fittingly to Shostakovich‘s Piano Concerto No. 2.“ (But shucks to that

SPOILER ALERT non-Andersen happy ending.

END OF SPOILER

Some pink flamingo funk to Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals.“ A two-by-two Noah‘s Ark procession led by Donald and Daisy Duck (with a Mickey and Minnie cameo) to Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.“ And (no hard feelings, Igor), a finale of Stravinsky, an ecological forest fantasia to “The (1919) Firebird Suite.”

Fantasia 2000 is not on the artistic, or cartoonistic, level of Fantasia. But it didn’t have to be. It was good enough, and it’s sad that Roy or the family studio never made any more, before his death last year. Roy though did finish one of Walt’s most provocative projects, “Destino” — Disney’s collaboration with Salvador Dali, for which the master Spanish surrealist Dali left a story, five paintings and over 70 drawings — and which Roy and French director Dominique Monfery finished. “Destino“ itself, and a documentary about it, are included in this set.

Fantasia 2000 was good enough for what it was meant to be, and now that Roy has died, maybe someone else should take up his labors of love.

As for the first Fantasia, I agree with my 12-year-old self: a canny critic with a wise teacher, who hadn’t yet had any of the capacity for joy kicked out of him by the sometimes snob-encrusted academy and the often greed-crazed, classist corporate world. Like him, I love “Fantasia” and, in the truest test of a classic, I can see it again and again. For me, “Fantasia” is the “Citizen Kane” of Golden Age animation.

Congratulations Walt. Congratulations, Roy. Congratulations, 1940 Disney Studio cartoon workers, one and all. Congratulations, Mr. Stokowski. And congratulations to you too, Mickey.

Contains: Fantasia (U.S.: Ben Sharpsteen, supervising producer, 1940) Four Stars. Sequence directors: James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Ford Beebe, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield. Story directors Joe Grant, Dick Huemer. Narrator/host: Deems Taylor. With Leopold and Mickey.

Fantasia 2000 U.S.: Various directors, 1999) Three and a Half Stars. Sequence directors: Don Hahn (live action), James Algar, Gaetan and Paul Brizzi, Hendel Butoy, Francis Glebas, Eric Goldberg, Pixote Hunt. Hosts: Steve Martin, Deems Taylor, James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, Bette Midler, Quincy Jones, Penn & Teller, and Izhtak Perlman.

Extras: The Oscar-nominated short “Destino” (U. S.-France: Monfery/Hench/Dali, 2003) (Three and a Half Stars); Commentaries; Documentary “The Schultheis Notebook,” on “Fantasia’s special effects; Featurettes on “Destino” and the unfinished “Fantasia” follow-up “Musicana”; Interactive features.

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OTHER CURRENT AND RECENT DVDS

Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Two Disc Blu-ray DVD combo) (Two Stars)

U.S.; David Slade, 2010 (Summit Entertainment)

Midway through Twilight Saga: Eclipse — a mediocre movie based on another Stephenie Meyer novel, that raked in oodles of cash, — Taylor Lautner suddenly showed up, grinning and preening, seemingly deep into his role of Jacob Black the spurned but persistent Native American werewolf. Jacob was still competing for the affections of Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan, that somewhat sullen blue-jeaned virgin from small town Washington state, a girl who was still dippy for Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen, the dreamy-eyed perfect-gentleman teen vampire, but who also still had some serious hots for Wolfman Jacob too.

As Bella wavered between the two smitten hunks, a mass squeal of delight, accompanied by yelping kittenish moans, and a fusillade of “Aaaahs” and “Ooooohs” of near-orgasmic proportions, suddenly rose up in the theater with the inevitability of an oil spill crashing on the Gulf Coast shores.

What a guy! What a pair of guys! Thanks to Jacob’s apparent inability to keep on his shirt and Edward’s seeming inability to take off his pants, the Twilight Saga target audience seemed about to achieve double delirium, at least at the screening I saw. These moaners, probably pretty typical, seemed deep in the throes of a bizarrely mesmerizing Teen fantasy that involved no sex, lots of smooching in empty mountain landscapes, swooning embraces, seductive fangs, marriage vows and mother‘s wedding rings, a puzzling no-show inattendance at school and the relative rarity of parents, teachers and shirts, plus occasional or climactic rumbles between gangs of competing good and bad vampires, with the good vamps (Edward’s gang) aided by huge, galloping but strangely weightless-looking werewolves, the size of horses (Jacob’s pack).

This is a dream whose inarguable appeal to sometimes moaning mass audiences just mystifies the hell out of me. When I was a teenager, the boys may have had fantasies of love and sex, and the girls fantasies of love and marriage, but those sometimes wet dreams lacked the weird intensity, or should I say the bite, of these new twilight heart-in-your-throat dreams.

Melissa Rosenberg once again wrote the script (from Meyer’s novel) and the new director, succeeding Catherine Hardwicke (the first movie) and Chris Weitz (the second), is David Slade, who did his vampire prep on 30 Days of Night, won fans with Hard Candy, and delivers the kind of movie you’d expect from an ex-rock video helmsman: slick and full of fancy tableaux and big star close-ups.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Two Stars)

U. S.; Jon Turteltaub, 2010 (Walt Disney)

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a movie for people easily impressed with CGI magic trickery, Harry Potter knockoffs and nerds-get-the-babe romantic fantasy comedies — as well as all those moviegoers who think Jay Baruchel may be the next Shia LaBeouf, and not just the next Eddie Deezen, and anyone who would cheerfully watch Nicolas Cage in anything, even if it’s called “Blinky Blinkoff, the Disco-Dancing Chipmunk.”

In other words, it’s for people who don’t care how they throw away their money. Co-starring Cage and Alfred Molina as dueling sorcerers, Baruchel as a doofus sorcerer, and Bellucci and Krige as sorceresses in sexy outfits, both trapped inside a Russian nesting doll, this is a movie that never really answers the questions: Why was this picture made? Were the kazillions of dollars it consumed well spent? Will life go on happily and productively even if we never even think about going to see, or buying a DVD of The Sorcerer‘s Apprentice? (Or to “Blinky Blinkoff?”)

It’s not for want of effort. Or kazillions of dollars. The Sorcerer‘s Apprentice has been produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Jon Turteltaub, the duo behind the National Treasure movies, neither of which, I‘m sorry to say, was a national treasure. And it was written by six screenwriters who should consider taking temporary vows of literary celibacy, or maybe spending the next thousand years, or at least the next three sequels, trapped inside a Russian nesting doll.

The Sorcerer‘s Apprentice was very dimly inspired by that wonderful Mickey Mouse-does-Paul Dukas cartoon segment with the magical, rebellious brooms and mops, from Fantasia. (See above.) To reprise this Apprentice’s yowza-wowza of a new plot: Many centuries ago, when kings, queens, wizards and dragons walked and slithered over the earth, when the once and future King Arthur romped with Merlin in the forest, and when nobody had yet heard of that little upstart Harry Potter, the actual Merlin the Magician (James A. Stephens) inserted and trapped in that nesting doll two souls: both the scrumptious sorceress Veronica (Monica Bellucci) and the evil Morgana Le Fay (Alice Krige) — a bad babe who intends to destroy the world if unleashed, thereby preventing any more National Treasure sequels.

Trying to free them is Veronica’s spurned suitor and Morgana’s dangerous hench-sorcerer Maxim Horvath, aka Magic Max (played by Alfred Molina), who has been locked in an urn for 1,300 years, thereby seriously derailing Alfred Molina‘s movie career (except for voice-overs). And Merlin has entrusted doll and urn to his last great disciple: the dour, sarcastic, stringy-haired, whimsically dressed but highly sorcery-skilled Balthazar Blake (Cage). Balthazar, apparently the last good sorcerer for 13 centuries, has a huge Medieval to Victorian era rummage shop in New York City, and he has been taking care of business, guarding that urn and doll well, since the time of Camelot. But now, Baltho badly bungles the job by asking New York City‘s biggest 10-year old dweeb, Dave Stutler (Jake Cherry) to hang around while he goes out — after which rather simple chore, young Dave promptly breaks the urn, releases Maxim, and generally screws up everything for maybe the next thousand years.

Why did Balthazar do something so preposterously stupid? Because one glance at Dave told Baltho that this unpromising looking lad, who had been racing around witlessly, trying to retrieve a wind-tossed love letter, is the long-awaited Prime Merlinian, a kind of Dalai Lama of sorcery. Contrite at his gaffe, Dave promptly has a nervous breakdown and comes back ten years later as a longer, lankier, dweebier Dave (Baruchel), an NYU physics major (specializing in Nikola Tesla), a shambling doofus with a hangdog expression and a monotone delivery. Unaccountably, Dave still has Balthazar’s trust and favor, and he’s still considered the Prime Merlinian and A-1 Sorcerer material.

So Dave hooks up with Balthy and soon the two chummy Sorcery Guys are palling it up all around New York casting spells, bantering away, riding in luxury cars and having little tiffs with Maxim — who has had a magazine named after him (sorry, just kidding), finally won that great part in “Prick Up Your Ears” (sorry, just kidding) and has hooked up with his own youthful companion and foxy blonde, magician Drake Stone (Toby Kennell). I tell you, when these four get together, there‘s no end of fun! (Sorry, just kidding.)

Cars chase! Subway mirrors break! The Eagle on the Chrysler Building flies! Parisian streets fold over on themselves like Escher lithographs! (No, that’s some other movie.) Buildings crumble! Dragons come alive in Chinatown parades! Nic Cage waves a pickle! Urns shatter! Sorcerers sorcerize! (As George W. Bush might say.) Mops and brooms do their crazy stuff! And love interest Becky smiles and spins those tunes! Hot! Cool! All of this leads to a big, exploding, super-awesome climax, which looks like it cost at least half a flubbilion of those multi-kazillion dollars the moviemakers spent, and does a peachy-keen job of setting up the sequel.

I know you’re all panting with excitement at the thought of seeing this movie, and its sequel, and all the National Treasure sequels, and the sequels to the rip-offs of the sequels, and maybe even “Blinky Blinkoff,” and all its knockoffs. Never fear. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was booked into so many theaters that only an idiot could have failed to find it, though probably plenty of idiots finagled their way inside anyway. Now even more movie-lovers and sorcery fans, and even more idiots, will get a chance to see it on DVD, including all those blissfully happy youthful cinephiles for whom Federico Fellini is probably a pizza parlor, and Alfred Hitchcock is maybe a dirty movie with fornicating puppets.

Sorcerer’s Apprentice forever, I say! Meanwhile, I hope Nicolas Cage, who is no doubt cackling and nickling all the way to the bank, doesn’t put off his next Werner Herzog or David Lynch project to sign up for five more Sorcerer’s Apprentice sequels, and maybe a special promotional “National Treasure“ Ponzi scheme.

Sorry, just kidding. But one can only hope that all these nice people will find another franchise after this one — to protect themselves when, as all good things inevitably do, this new series inevitably dies, or gets ripped off, or gets locked in an urn for 1,300 years.

Of course, in a pinch, there’s always “Blinky Blinkoff.”

Extras: Documentary; Deleted scenes (on DVD); Featurettes (on Blu-ray).

Going the Distance (Two and a Half Stars)

U.S.; Nanette Bernstein, 2010 (New Line)

Rom-com anyone? This thinking person’s romantic comedy about a long-distance relationship between Seattle reporter Erin (Drew Barrymore) and Manhattan music industry guy Garrett (Justin Long), has a snappier more verbal script (by Geoff La Tulippe) than usual. It’s certainly not drivel like those would-be comedies The Switch and The Back Up Plan. And thank God there‘s not a sperm donor in sight. (There are two screwing-on-the-dining-room table gags and I’m sorry, I don’t get them. The dining room table? Couldn’t these hot-pants lovers wait at least until they staggered to a couch?) But it continues my disaffection from most modern rom-coms: an awful abbreviation for a once great but now sadly damaged genre.

The biggest problem here: Barrymore’s Erin and Long‘s Garrett, partly due to the smart-alecky script, never strike you as being wildly enough in love to sustain any kind of long distance relationship for any length of time or space, even between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Erin seems like she kinda sorta likes the guy, he’s cute okay, as long as she didn’t have a better offer, or maybe some roller derby tickets, by Tuesday. And Garrett seemed to be running some kind of con game involving frequent smiling and incessantly widened eyes. Sometimes, there s more affection between Garrett’s two goofy buddies, Charlie Day as toilet-conscious Dan and Jason Sudeikis as “cougar”-hunting stud Box. But maybe that’s the point.

A point in the movie‘s favor: These Going the Distance characters, unlike all too many modern movie rom-com couples, do have topical conversations and they do make topical jokes about politics and culture. And the movie, if nothing else, may start a new craze for dining room tables with retractable foam mattresses in drawers.

Extras: Commentary with Burstein; Featurettes; Additional scenes.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (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.

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 funny, that they redeem a lot of the movie’s sprightly, but over-cute and over-obvious comedy.

One point. Greg is a writer, a diarist. So, where are all his books? He’s got a room that doesn’t look like any 6-8th grade boy‘s I ever saw — so neat and clean, so orderly, and so full of ceramic bird-bowls, horse-statuettes, and portraits of hens that it suggests Greg will grow up to be an interior decorator, or maybe a production designer.

No DVDs or CDs either. Instead, Greg’s shelves were covered with those ridiculous ceramic birds and bowls. I got depressed just looking at his room. But maybe the designers were deliberately trying to promote neatness and regular house-cleaning. And the ceramics industry. Or does this wimpy kid have a Kindle?

Extras: Commentary by Freudenthal; Featurettes; Trailer.

Vampires Suck (Zero Stars)

U. S.; Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer. 2020 (20th Century Fox)

Vampires may suck. But not as much as this movie.

A legitimate contender for worst movie of the decade, Suck is a parody of Twilight (oxymorons suck?) in which madcap writer-directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (Meet the Spartans, Epic Movie) keep trying to turn bad scenes into worse jokes. (Team Jason! Team Aaron!) I refuse to name any of the actors here, since they seem like defenseless pawns — and act like them too.

A truly miserable experience, my friend, though it suggests the CIA might productively use endless-loop prints of Vampires Suck as a replacement for waterboarding. Half an hour with Ken Jeong or Team Jacob in this show and anybody might confess to anything — including writing and directing Vampires Suck.

Bomber (Three Stars)

U.S./U.K.: Paul Cotter, 2010 (Film Movement)

A not-so-close-knit British family — taciturn World War II RAF bomber pilot Alistar (Shane Taylor), his too-compliant wife Valerie (Eileen Nicholas) and their bad-tempered, self-centered failure of a son Ross (Benjamin Whitrow) — embark on a not-exactly-planned, not-quite-wise road trip to Germany, after the parents have an accident, and Ross, on a tight schedule because of his love life, is pressed into reluctant service as driver. He’s a bad one, and his father has a bad conscience — about the bombing run in which he participated over half a century ago.

Cotter’s fine, extremely canny movie, done with an immaculate comic precision and darkish undertones, is about families and war and guilt: serious subjects which it imbues with a breezy, almost farcical lightness. That doesn’t mean the film doesn’t move us. The little and big disasters of the trip, the bizarre family dynamics, the ever-passing landscape and casual, sometimes odd populace, and the strange, unexpected, almost screw-loose ending, accumulate into a stinging portrait of a family coping with memory and each other, and maybe of a Europe whose scars healed too soon, and whose redemptions arrived too late.

Extras: “Edgar” (Germany: Fabian Busch, 2010) (Three Stars), a short film about pain, loss, old age and scant options; “Bomber” Commentary by Cotter; Behind-the-scenes extra.

Bomber
is a selection of Film Movement’s DVD-of-the-month club, an excellent offering of art and festival films from around the world. Link www.filmmovement.com.

Bee Movie (Two and a Half Stars)

U.S.; Simon J. Smith/Steve Hickner, 2007 (DreamWorks)

Jerry Seinfeld is back, as the writer-producer voice-star Bee of this predictable but sometimes charming concoction about a bee that sues humankind for stealing honey and then has to re-right imbalanced nature. Clever, but not as seamlessly imaginative as the Pixar stuff, which it tries to resemble; the other actors include Renee Zellweger as the human love interest. (She’d be a better honey-bee.)

Extras: Commentary by Seinfeld, alternate endings, deleted scenes, featurettes, music video, trailers, games.

The DVD Wrap: Fantasia/Fantasia 2000, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Knight and Day, Cairo Time, The Sicilian Girl, Vampires Suck … and more

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Fantasia/Fantasia 2000: Blu-ray
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Blu-ray

According to Disney legend, Dopey the Dwarf was originally pushed for the role in Fantasia that went to Mickey Mouse. Instead, Uncle Walt went with the established star, hoping the role would maintain Mickey’s high profile in movies. Although Dopey might have been an inspired choice, there’s no questioning Mickey’s enduring appeal as the aspiring magician whose imagination nearly gets him killed.

Seventy years later, in the live-action Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Jon Turteltaub paid homage to Mickey’s conjuring of an unruly army of brooms and buckets, by creating a similar sequence for Jay Baruchel. For me, it was the highlight of the movie.

Historians have written entire books about Fantasia, so it would be difficult to add any more scholarship in the space allotted here. It was Walt Disney’s dream to advance the art of animation to a point where it would be taken as seriously by high-brows as it was by the masses. To accomplish this, he asked his stable of artists to translate great passages from the classical-music repertory into visual narratives.

It was a revolutionary concept, to be sure, and audiences failed to warm to the 125-minute, 64-speaker experiment. Some say Fantasia wasn’t accorded its due until the 1960s, when potheads embraced its unique blend of sensual stimuli. Today, of course, it’s considered to be a work of genius.

If Fantasia had succeeded commercially, Disney probably would have continued to produce such animated symphonies, although not necessary at feature length. His artists kept coming up with ideas, but it wouldn’t be until the turn of the millennium for the sequel to arrive in theaters, and it took the stewardship of nephew Roy Disney to do it.

Initially limited to IMAX screens, Fantasia/2000 reprised The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, while adding Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5″; Respighi’s “Pines of Rome,” with its choreographed whales; Greshwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” using imagery inspired by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld; Shostakovich’s “Piano Concerto No. 2, Allegro, Opus 102,” combined with Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of a heroic toy soldier; Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals,” with its comically confounded flamingos; Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance, Marches 1, 2, 3 and 4,” starring Donald Duck; and Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite, 1919 Version,” which harkens back to “The Rite of Spring” from the original Fantasia. Tellingly, perhaps, Fantasia/2000 was limited to 75 minutes, to fit contemporary consumers’ limited attention spans.

Both movies look and sound splendid in Blu-ray, of course. (They also beg the question as to how they’d look in HD 3D.) The supplemental features also make this package an ideal holiday gift. They include Disney’s Oscar-nominated short Destino (2003) and the feature-length documentary, Dali & Disney: A Date With Destino, which explains the film’s 50-year gestation period; The Schultheis Notebook: A Disney Treasure, with newly discovered production notes; Musicana, Walt Disney’s inspiration for a sequel; a tour of the Disney Family Museum, in San Francisco, with daughter Diane Disney-Miller; an interactive art gallery; audio commentaries; and Disney Virtual Vault, via BD Live. The DVD bonuses are limited to “Musicana,” the museum tour and audio commentaries.

Turteltaub’s live-action Sorcerer’s Apprentice seems to have been influenced as much by Ghostbusters as Fantasia, in that its Manhattan location provides an ideal backdrop for super-sized supernatural activity.

Baruchel plays Dave, the reluctant apprentice to Nic Cage’s Balthazar Blake. The madly eccentric magician is one of three seemingly immortal protégés of Merlin, who prophesized the messiah-like arrival of a sorcerer as great as he was. That person is perceived to be Dave. Also vying for control of the young man’s powers is the devious Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina), who would love nothing more than to unleash the long-contained evil of Morgana Le Fay (Alice Krieg). Together, they could trump Dave and Balthazar’s intrinsic goodness and raise an army of the dead to destroy humanity.

If all one knew about Sorcerer’s Apprentice is that it’s produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, it still would be possible to imagine the kind of inspired mayhem that transpires when Balthazar, Horvath and Morgana do battle in the Big Apple. Neither would it surprise anyone to learn that the apprentice’s mission, like that of his mentor, would be complicated by a lovely and supportive young woman (Teresa Palmer and Monica Bellucci, respectively).

None of this will matter to audiences drawn to the promise of CGI legerdemain, as promised in the trailers. Fans of Fantasia will dig the homage to Mickey Mouse’s interpretation of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and placement of his starred hat among the artifacts in Balthazar’s antique shop, even if such nods sail right over the heads of younger viewers.

Turteltaub’s version cost a fortune to make, but failed to ignite much passion among audiences drawn to such special-effects extravaganzas. There’s no reason to think it won’t dominate video rentals for the next couple of weeks, though. Among the many Blu-ray supplements are the making-of featurettes, Magic in the City, The Science of Sorcery, Making Magic Real, Wolves and Puppies, Fantasia: Reinventing a Classic, The Fashionable Drake Stone and The World’s Coolest Car; backgrounders, The Grimhold: An Evil Work of Art and The Encantus; several deleted scenes; outtakes; Easter eggs; and visual-effects demos.

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Waking Sleeping Beauty
The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story
Walt & El Grupo

Admirers of all things Disney will find a cornucopia of unexpected riches in these three fine documentaries, which are as entertaining as they are informative. The title with the most across-the-board appeal is probably Waking Sleeping Beauty, which describes how Hollywood’s premier animation studio was rescued from the brink of irrelevancy in the early 1980s and re-established in its familiar position of dominance within a decade.

Artistically, the time period covered in Don Hahn and Patrick Pacheco’s film spans the crushing disappointment over critical and commercial returns for The Black Cauldron – a movie that still has its champions — and elation over the stunning success of The Lion King. From a corporate point of view, however, Waking Sleeping Beauty is bookended by the arrival of Michael Eisner, Frank Wells and Jeffrey Katzenberg, and the famously acrimonious departure of Katzenberg, who, in 1994, would found DreamWorks with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen.

In between, of course, would come a string of successes that would include The Little Mermaid, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Lion King. None of these films would have seen the light of day if the studio had been lost in a hostile takeover, as feared, and Roy Disney hadn’t committed to restoring Disney’s prominence in the Hollywood Pantheon. Among other things, it kept the company’s stable of artists and innovators intact and cautiously optimistic, at least.

That family spirit is palpable in “home movies” and other material shot during the development of the ambitious new projects. Interviews with all the key players describe an atmosphere, first, of corporate pride and joy, but, before long, intrigue and back-stabbing. It’s a fascinating story, to be sure, but viewers only interested in the final product might prefer not knowing how the moguls behaved during this tumultuous period. Added material includes the overview featurette, Why Wake Sleeping Beauty?; deleted scenes; The Sailor, the Mountain Climber, the Artist and the Poet, commemorating Roy Disney, Frank Wells, animator Joe Ranft and lyricist Howard Ashman; studio tours; a directors’ reunion with Rob Minkoff and Kirk Wise; a discussion of how the studio operated before and after the death of Walt Disney; webisode shorts; and a gallery of photos, caricatures and art from the period covered in the documentary.

Anyone who’s had the misfortune of having “It’s a Small World (After All)” echo through their brain cavity for hours at a time can blame Disney tunesmiths Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman, subjects of The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story. The same could be said of such irresistible numbers as “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocous,” “Chim-Chim-Cheree” and “I Wanna Be Like You.” Even though the feature-length documentary was conceived, produced and directed by two of the songwriters’ sons,

The Boys isn’t all sugar. There’s some strong medicine in the mix, as well. For example, the brothers remained personally estranged throughout much of their 50-year-plus partnership and tenure with Disney. Among the bonus material is a look at the Disney Studios in the 1960s; the casting of “Mary Poppins”; writing songs for theme-park attractions; a profile of animator Roy Williams, a.k.a. the Big Mooseketeer; Bob Sherman’s artwork; testimonials from celebrities; and a “Sherman Brother’s Jukebox,” with such songs as “Tall Paul,” “Chim Chim Cheree,” “Feed the Birds,” “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” as well as the stories behind them.

Walt & El Grupo describes a time in history when the world was a much larger place and Mickey Mouse may have been our country’s most popular and effective ambassador. It was 1941, before the declaration of global war, when Walt Disney was asked to make a goodwill tour of Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Snow White and Pinocchio and had already demonstrated their viability as stand-alone features, but the studio’s health had been threatened by an industry-wide strike.

Uncle Sam agreed to pick up the expenses for the 10-week trip, though, so Disney decided to bring along a coterie of 16 artists, who the boss hoped would collect ideas for such future projects as Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. Moreover, it was believed that Disney’s estimable presence could counter inroads made in South American by Nazis and other fascist propagandists.

Like The Boys, El Grupo was made by the son of a Disney stalwart: Frank Thomas, one of The Nine Old Men. Theodore Thomas mined studio archives for source material, interviewed the relatives of participants, borrowed their memorabilia and re-traced the animators’ steps in Brazil and Argentina. In addition to watching Disney and el grupo interact with the locals, it’s fun to watch artists going about the business of recording their experiences on paper. The DVD adds commentary by Thomas and historian J.B. Kaufman; “Photos In Motion,” which described how photos came to life in motion pictures; three extended sequences; the theatrical version of Saludos Amigos and original trailers for Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.

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Knight and Day: Blu-ray

If there’s one thing we know for sure about Tom Cruise, it’s that he enjoys performing his own stunts. Last week, for example, photos of the 48-year-old actor dangling from the observation deck of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa skyscraper, the world’s tallest, were published in newspapers and magazines around the world. The act of dare-deviltry was performed for the fourth installment of “Mission:Impossible,” movies that often use elaborate stunts to advance a recognizable narrative.

As far as I can tell, Knight and Day is a romantic thriller with no plot, discernible or otherwise. It’s one long stunt in search of a grand finale. Considering that most popcorn movies wouldn’t recognize a narrative if it rose from the pages of a screenplay and bit them in the rear end, that remark sounds a bit more dismissive than it’s intended to be. The stunts are very good, indeed, and Cruise’s insistence on performing some of them, at least, make Knight and Day that much more interesting.

According to a featurette in the bonus package, co-star Cameron Diaz also agreed to do some of her own fighting and driving stunts. Knight and Day opens with Cruise’s Roy Miller literally bumping into Diaz’ June Havens in a Kansas City airport. They will find themselves on the same flight, which is nearly devoid of passengers. While June is in the lavatory adjusting her makeup and trying to decide whether or not to hit on Roy, their fellow passengers and crew reveal themselves as assassins bent on killing him.

Before she can even say, “Huh?,” June joins Roy in the ensuing skirmish and behind the wheel of the plane, which he crash lands in the middle of a corn field. It takes nearly the entire length of the movie for June to figure out for which agency Roy works and why two different groups of assassins, minimum, are chasing them around the globe. Viewers are pretty much left in the dark, as well. The good news, though, is that it hardly matters, especially as the action moves from Boston to Kankakee to Jamaica, Salzburg, Sevilla, Point Magu and the Little Europe backlot at Universal City.

Director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line) keeps everything moving at break-neck speed, while a budget estimated to be in the neighborhood of $120 million (imagine if Cruise and Diaz hadn’t done their own stunts) allows for much lovely scenery and a re-creation of the running of the bulls at Pamplona. And, yes, it’s fun to watch. Making-of featurettes demonstrate how some of the larger set pieces were accomplished, with much bright banter between Cruise and Diaz. There’s also a music video for “Someday,” starring Cruise and the Black Eyed Peas; humorous viral videos; and BD Live extras.

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Cairo Time

I’m terrible at predicting Oscar nominees, but I’d be very surprised if Patricia Clarkson’s name wasn’t among those announced as a finalist in the Best Actress category for her work in Cairo Time. Few actors are as predictably excellent as Clarkson, who, after first gaining attention as the German junkie in High Art, turned in stellar performances in Far From Heaven, Pieces of April, The Station Agent, Good Night, and Good Luck, Elegy and Married Life, among other pictures.

In Ruba Nadda’s heady romantic drama, she plays an American magazine writer in Cairo to reconnect with her husband, a United Nations relief worker in Gaza. If the splendid hotel digs are any indication, it promises to be a wonderful reunion. Unfortunately, Juliette Grant’s husband has been delayed by a disturbance in the occupied territory and there’s no telling how long it will be before he can make the short hop to Egypt.

He’s asked a former co-worker to help Juliette find her bearings in the city of 18 million people, a duty Tareq (Alexander Siddig) takes extremely seriously. From that short description, anyone who’s seen more than a dozen indie romances should be able to guess what happens if not next, then close to it. Juliette and Tariq spend so much time together, in so many exotic places, that it’s inevitable some sort of intimacy should develop between them. Whether it should blossom into something sexual – or lasting — is the question Nadda asks viewers to consider. Not being a Hollywood product, Cairo Time provides its characters with sufficient time to mull and re-mull their emotional impulses, privately, without the input of a Dr. Ruth surrogate.

Tareq is far too loyal and polite to act impulsively, while Juliette seems willing to believe her husband will join her any minute now. What’s wonderful about Cairo Time is summed up distinctly in its title. Nadda, a Canadian of Syrian descent, captures the rhythm and other sensual stimuli of the Egyptian capital and their pull on two emotionally vulnerable, if distinctly different people. Such decisions should not be made in haste, even if lust is a more powerful force than patience.

In the interviews included in the supplementary material, Nadda says she was especially interested in introducing audiences to the kind of Arab man rarely, if ever seen in western films. As portrayed by Siddig (Syriana, 24), Tareq is every bit that person and, through him, we experience Cairo and Egypt – from the casbahs, cafes and congested streets, to the pyramids, White Desert and Alexandria – as if we had a native making sense of it all for us.

The making-of featurette describes how difficult it was to make a movie in the teeming streets of Cairo, with temperatures approaching 120 degrees and setup points that are here today and gone tomorrow. There’s also a Q&A from a press conference at the Toronto Film Festival and some of Nadda’s earlier short films.

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The Sicilian Girl

As we learned in the second and third chapters of The Godfather, the Sicilian Mafia is a very different creature than its American iteration. Besides the fact that its soldiers tend not to dress as snappily as their counterparts here, vendettas are carried from generation to generation to generation, ad nausea. Both, though, are governed by the code of omerta, which demands a level of secrecy few other organizations can maintain.

In Marco Amenta’s The Sicilian Girl, we’re introduced to a 17-year-old girl who risks everything to exact revenge on the men who killed her father – himself a Mafia don – and her older brother. Because there are no men in her family left to do the deed in the traditional way, Rita Atria decides to do the unthinkable: turn state’s evidence against men once considered to be as close as family members.

In doing so, Rita turns to Judge Paolo Borsellino, one of the few law-enforcement officials willing to stand up to her father in a forthright manner and remain incorruptible, even when threatened with assassination. Rita’s no pussycat, however. Even after she enters the country’s witness-protection program, she proves herself to be very much her father’s daughter. When prosecutors don’t appear to be moving fast enough, she confronts them with angry diatribes and ignores their common-sense advice. Neither does she endear herself to the magistrate assigned to the trial of dozens of her father and uncle’s former lieutenants.

Yet, at great personal cost, she delivers the goods. Atria’s direction isn’t always fluid, but Veronica D’Agostino’s gripping portrayal of Rita rarely wavers. It’s a portrait in courage to which the families of American Mafiosi ought to aspire, instead of agreeing to play themselves in hideous reality-TV shows.

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Going the Distance: Blu-ray

For all its profanity and horndog dialogue, Going the Distance is about as provocative as a sketch in the final third of Saturday Night Live. Like most rom-coms about long-distance relationships, Geoff LaTulippe’s script demands of its lovers that they meet-cute and spend the rest of the movie conceiving new and increasingly flimsy reasons why they shouldn’t find a way to be together.

Before the advent of the Internet and unlimited long-distance calls, filmmakers dealt with the futility of such relationships by showing generic jetliners transverse the continent, their nose cones pointing in opposite directions, sometimes on the same day. Today, the same effect can be derived by having lovers converse via Skype or text messaging, although such technologies are rarely exploited correctly.

Devoid of originality or realistic human interaction, Going the Distance plays very much like an episode of Friends, during which the characters chat inarticulately about inconsequential subjects and wonder why they spend more time drinking coffee than making new friends. Here, Drew Barrymore and Justin Long play the couple stuck in the long-distance relationship. They seem extremely comfortable together in person, but devoid of passion when separated, even in de rigueur long-distance masturbation scenes.

The sidekicks who provide Long’s Garrett with bad advice are played by Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day, while Barrymore’s Erin receives hers from Christine Applegate, as the humorless sister, and Jim Gaffigan, as her lumpen brother-in-law. The bonus features are dominated by deleted scenes and self-congratulatory interviews with cast and crew.

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Vampires Suck: Extended Bite Me Edition

Given a resume that includes Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans and Disaster Movie, it was only a matter of time before parodists Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer would tackle the recent epidemic of vampire movies. Their formula is simple, really. They break down a currently popular genre according to stock characters, narrative clichés, experiences shared by protagonists and common background elements, with an eye to lampooning archetypes and ridiculous plot devices.

In Vampires Suck, for example, the bloodsuckers that live in a rainy town in the Pacific Northwest tend to be young, attractive and prone to exposing large patches of skin, just like their counterparts in Twilight. Here, though, the teens appear to be practicing for the same quarter-finals as the ones in Glee.

There also are plenty of references to True Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Vampire Diaries. When those gags run dry, Friedberg and Seltzer turn to gay, shirtless werewolves and such non-generic pop-cultural touchstones as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Tiger Woods, the Kardashians, Lady Gaga and blow-up sex dolls. If one joke or sight gag doesn’t work, another will surely follow 30 seconds later.

And, speaking of clichés, the ubiquitous Ken Jeong has been assigned the task of parodying himself. The further one is removed from their sophomore year in high school, the less fresh and amusing “Vampire Sucks” will be. The DVD comes with both theatrical and unrated editions, deleted scenes and a gag reel.

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Greaser’s Palace

Made in 1972, in and around Santa Fe, Greaser’s Palace is a wildly eccentric re-telling of the life of Jesus Christ, if He had chosen to make a return engagement in a dumpy desert town in the Old West. As conceived by underground auteur Robert Downey Sr. – yes, Junior, makes a brief appearance as, what else, a 7-year-boy – Greaser’s Palace is an equal-opportunity blasphemer, which, of course, should have made it must-viewing for the midnight-movie crowd.

Here, Jesus is portrayed by a zoot-suited Allan Arbus, who returns to Earth, via parachute, somewhere north of the Mexican border (“to get it right this time,” Downey argues in an interview). In addition to healing the sick and raising the dead, as he makes his way to Jerusalem, the dapper drifter will break into song and dance a mean soft shoe to impress potential disciples. The closer Jesse gets to the dancehall saloon run by Seaweedhead Greaser, the greater the number of followers he accumulates.

Anyone who’s read the New Testament should be able to guess what happens to Jesse next. Critics have openly despised Greaser’s Palace since its brief run in New York City, in 1972. Downey was coming off the success of the anti-establishment comedy Putney Swope and his admirers could hardly wait to see what he could accomplish with the relatively large budget of $1 million. To say they were disappointed would be a huge understatement.

Today, though, much of Downey’s folly looks inspired, at least by comparison to what passes for sacrilegious underground humor these days. (Jesse wows the crowd at the Palace not with his vaudeville shtick, but by falling back on the time-honored stigmata gag.) Among other things to look for: a pre-Fantasy Island appearance by Hervé Villechaize, whose Mr. Spitunia is married to a bearded transvestite, and Toni Basil (Easy Rider, the hit song “Mickey”) as a topless Indian maiden. The DVD includes an interview with Downey Sr.

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The Bing Crosby Collection

The closer we get to Christmas, the more we’re reminded of Bing Crosby, whose image and songs are practically synonymous with the holiday. If we see Going My Way, Holiday Inn and its color remake, White Christmas, once, we’re likely to encounter it a dozen more times before New Year’s Day. That hardly qualifies as a crime, however, considering the wonderful songs and warmth of the screenplays.

The crooner became a Hollywood staple at the dawn of the talkie era and continued to be active in films and television until the 1970s, as a variety-show host and actor adept at drama, comedy and playing singers, like himself. More than 30 years after his death, it’s the odd season when one of his songs, at least, doesn’t appear on a soundtrack.

The rarely seen films collected in Universal’s highly entertaining The Bing Crosby Collection are distinguished by the Tacoma native’s truly splendid singing voice, leading-man good looks and participation of some of the most popular performers of his day. In College Humor (1933), Crosby plays a singing professor at a college where football is king. The instructor falls for the same beautiful blond coed (Mary Carlisle) as the team’s star (Richard Arlen). Among the delightfully goofy things in College Humor is the depiction of collegians – the male students, including Jack Oakie, all look as if they’re over 30 – who wear beanies and letter-sweaters to class and slinky gowns and tuxes to parties. George Burns and Gracie Allen add to the fun.

George and Gracie also appear in We’re Not Dressing (1934), alongside Carole Lombard, Ethel Merman, Ray Milland and Leon Errol. Crosby plays a deckhand on a yacht that is shipwrecked on a seemingly deserted island. Lombard plays the snobbish heiress who ultimately succumbs to the sailor’s charms. Also released that year, Here Is My Heart imagines a rich radio crooner posing as a hotel waiter to warm the heart of an icy Russian princess, played by Kitty Carlisle. Also on hand are William Frawley and Akim Tamiroff.

Mississippi (1935) pairs Crosby with W.C. Fields, as a Yankee gentleman who loses face when he refuses to duel a Southern military officer, who covets his fiancé. Disgraced, he takes a singing job on a riverboat captained by Fields. The songs are by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. In Sing You Sinners (1938), Crosby, Fred MacMurray and Donald O’Connor play the singing Beebe Brothers, who seek their fortune in Los Angeles but are distracted by the temptations of horse racing. (Crosby was a co-founder of the Del Mar race track.)

In Welcome Stranger (1947), Crosby plays an upstart doctor assigned to cover patients of a cranky old physician (Barry Fitzgerald) while he’s on vacation. Joan Caulfield plays the local girl who makes waves with her financee by befriending the singing sawbones, at least until he requires emergency medical care.

These titles were made by Paramount Productions, between 1929 and 1949. In 1958, they were part of a 700-film transaction, through which MCA/Universal acquired the rights, ostensibly for television distribution. They movies have all been upgraded and look and sound terrific.

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Death of a Snowman

A few months back, a nasty crime thriller titled Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema emerged from the truly mean streets of Johannesburg, South Africa, chronicling the ascendency of a pair of poor township teens from common thieves to well-connected urban ganglords.

In 2005, Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi took home a Foreign Language Oscar for its grim depiction of thug life in post-apartheid Jo’berg. Released in 1978, Death of a Snowman also describes a city beset with crime and vigilante violence. Clearly a product of its time, Christopher Rowley and Bima Stagg’s crudely made thriller was informed by the same action, rhythms and fashions that distinguished such American blaxploitation classics as Super Fly and Shaft.

In it, Steve Chaka (Ken Gampu) plays an ambitious news reporter, who’s handed the scoop of the year by an all-black vigilante group known only as War on Crime. Chaka’s anxious to cleanse the streets of the capital of the same scum targeted by the killers, so he ignores any potential conflicts. Seeking the verification of official sources, the reporter enters into an uneasy alliance with a cynical white police detective. Together, they get drawn into the mayhem created by War on Crime in their bloody feud with various facsimiles of “The Man.”

Death of a Snowman is a far from perfect movie … hell, it’s not even that close to being good. Still, I found it interesting for a couple of reasons, unrelated to its violent storyline: 1) the absence of apartheid references and positive representation of middle-class black professionals; and 2) the inclusion of Trevor Rabin’s name on the credits. At the time, the Johannesburg native was something of a local musical phenom and the funky R&B/disco sound of Snowman was right up his alley.

An ardent opponent of apartheid (one of his cousins wrote Biko, while another represented the slain activist’s family in a wrongful-death suit), Rabin had yet to move to London and Los Angeles, where he would join the reunited prog-rock ensemble, Yes, and compose several of the group’s later hits. Obviously, though, Rabin had caught the composing bug. After leaving Yes, he would go on to provide scores for such high-profile movies as Con Air, Armageddon, Enemy of the People, Remember the Titans, National Treasure, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and, yes, Snakes on a Plane.

For my money, that’s sufficient justification for rental of Snowman.

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Exam
Alarm
The Possession of David O’Reilly

It takes a lot of skimming to separate the gold from the dross among movies that arrive on these shores virtually unseen by critics here and are immediately relegated to video-store shelves. Unreleased American films that end up in the same place generally can boast of one recognizable star or director, at least, while others have benefitted from screenings at festivals. Blurbs from critics are the most unreliable of references, probably. At best, they might lead adventurous viewers to websites devoted to niche films or compiling reviews from other sources.

It’s an inexact science, to be sure, but sometimes the rewards are worth the effort. Here are three imported thrillers that lack most of the usual credentials, yet could find an audience among fans of psycho-dramas.

Exam is being pitched as a twisted spinoff of “Apprentice,” in which eight ambitious men and women compete for a vaguely articulated job with an unknown company, and are accorded a mere 80 minutes to demonstrate their worthiness to an unseen observer. Given only the barest of clues as to the single question that requires an answer, the participants must work as a team, knowing only one of them is likely to survive the challenge.

As soon as any one of them breaks a rule, they’re dragged from the room by a guard, never to return again. This gives the proceedings an Agatha Christie feel, although her scenarios didn’t include anything this sadistic. In another conundrum, the more participants learn about each other, the easier it is for them to target foibles and eliminate potential allies.

At 101 minutes, the winnowing process takes place in real time, so viewers theoretically have no greater advantage than the individual contestants. Exam is an entertaining diversion, but patience is required.

In Alarm, a traumatized Irish woman trades the mayhem of Dublin, for what she expects to be a more sedate existence in the countryside. Director Gerard Stembridge doesn’t give Molly (Ruth Bradley) much time to enjoy her new digs, before he assigns unknown forces to break into her home at night and deprive her of sleep. Even after Molly has an alarm system installed and gets a dog to protect her, the intrusions continue.

There are plenty of people who have the means to torment the pretty young woman, but hardly any reasonable motives. This leaves, of course, the distinct possibility that Molly is completely nuts and she enjoys the attention. For most of its 105-minute length, however, Alarm is full of a lot noise that signifies almost nothing.

The Possession of David O’Reilly imagines a scenario in which a shell-shocked young man arrives at the house of friends, bringing a world of hurt along with him. No sooner does David O’Reilly settle in for the night than he conjures visions of bogeymen and blood-soaked demons. At first, the welcoming couple attempts to comfort their pal by insisting he’s still in mourning over a lost love. Before long, however, David begins wielding a butcher knife around the house, threatening everyone and everything in his path.

Again, the question becomes: is David bonkers or is the house truly haunted? The distributors would love for us to find parallels between their movie and Paranormal Activity. Not having seen the latter title, I wouldn’t know. If you do want to find out if that’s the case, I suggest watching Possession with the lights out.

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David Bowie: Rare and Unseen

This DVD, the latest entry in MVD/Wienerworld’s excellent Rare and Unseen Collection, arrived after my review of The Sacred Triangle: Bowie, Iggy & Lou ran here, so there’s really no reason in rehashing Bowie’s contributions to rock music over the last 40 years. Films in the Rare and Unseen are particularly worthwhile for their presentation of archival interviews from non-mainstream sources, as well as largely unseen concert footage and newsreel clips. The same holds true for the Bowie DVD.

It is enhanced by film borrowed from the archives of Britain’s Independent Television News and restored television interviews, in which he discusses his drug use, alter egos and Berlin period. Another rarity is a backstage visit paid Bowie by celebrity journalist Janet Street-Porter and an interview with the late talk-show host, Russell Harty.

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Monk: Complete Series Limited Edition Box Set
The Bionic Woman: Season One

Movie stars will tell you that portraying evil characters generally is a more satisfying experience than playing virtuous ones. In television and novels, the opposite is almost always the case. Dexter Morgan may be a serial killer, but what keeps viewers tuning in each week is his insistence that some criminals shouldn’t be given an opportunity to escape justice on a legal technicality.

Tony Soprano was responsible for the deaths of quite a few people, almost all of them killers in their own right. We identified with him, because, at home, he couldn’t cope with the moods of his teenage children any better than we can. The writers of serial mysteries and series television not only are required to create protagonists who are smarter than the average bear, but also possess quirks and idiosyncrasies that endear them to viewers.

More than 130 years after readers were introduced to Sherlock Holmes, you’d think writers would have exhausted all possible idiosyncrasies.

No crime fighter in memory has more ticks, endearing and otherwise, than freelance San Francisco detective Adrian Monk, and, after eight seasons, it would be difficult to imagine such an obsessive-compulsive character being portrayed by anyone except Tony Shalhoub. (ABC originally wanted Michael Richards and passed on the show when he turned them down.) Normally, you’d think anyone as tightly wound and germ-phobic as Monk would be the last person you’d want to see entering a crime scene in his paper booties. Even if the gag worked once or twice, how long could any actor keep it rolling for a whole season, let alone eight?

Shalhoub, a veteran character actor with established comic chops, crafted performances that somehow kept Monk’s inarguably annoying traits from overwhelming the intricacies of detection. To this end, the show’s writers gave Monk devoted a sidekick, alternately Sharona Fleming and Natalie Teeger (Bitty Schram was replaced by Traylor Howard in the third season), and a cautious ally in the police department in Captain Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine). It’s formulaic, but good scripts trump clichés every night of the week.

Beyond all the obvious reasons for coveting Monk: Complete Series Limited Edition Box Set, its release corrects a problem inherent in the show’s rise to mainstream acceptance. After ABC realized it might have misjudged the popularity of the USA Network show, it scheduled prime-time reruns in the summers of 2002 and 2004. Anticipating a writers’ strike in 2008, NBC picked up second-run airings of Monk and Psyche.

While this exposed the show to countless new viewers, it was difficult for them to keep track of what happened, when, and what might have been missed in the interim. This box corrects any such confusion. Additionally, it offers such special features as “Mr. Monk and His Origins,” “Mr. Monk and His O.C.D.,” “Mr. Monk and His Fellow Sufferers,” “The Minds Behind the Monk,” character profiles, “Life Before Monk,” episode commentaries, a treatise on the writing process, the 32-page “Defective Detective Handbook” and “Mr. Monk Says Goodbye,” which helps tie up ends loosened in Episode One. Look for such guest stars as John Turturro, Howie Mandell, Virginia Madsen Sarah Silverman and Stanley Tucci, Shalhoub’s co-star in “Big Night.”

Last week’s big news in the TV-to-DVD arena was the arrival of The Six Million Dollar Man collector’s box. I’ve subsequently been reminded of the recent release of the first season of The Bionic Woman, the spinoff series that starred Lindsay Wagner.

Initially, Jaime Sommers was introduced as a love interest for Col. Steve Austin (Lee Majors), but viewers demanded more of her. So, she was accorded a bionic future of her own, as a top-secret agent for the Office of Scientific Investigations. The box set includes the five original episodes featured in Six Million Dollar Man and new “Bionic Beginnings” featurette.

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The Special Relationship
Marvel Knights: Iron Man: Extremis
Sid & Marty Krofft’s Saturday Morning Hits

Americans should be excused if they can’t tell the difference between actor Michael Sheen and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Sheen has performed dead-on impressions of Blair in The Queen, The Deal and The Special Relationship, an HBO original movie whose title not only describes the enduring alliance between England and the United States, but also Blair’s friendship with President Bill Clinton.

We’ve come to know Blair as a strong ally of America during periods of conflict and an astute domestic politician. He shared with Bill Clinton an aggressive approach to diplomacy and a broad smile, which often disguised shark’s teeth. Here, Clinton (Dennis Quaid) is the more experienced leader and Blair would love to hitch his star to the president’s wagon.

When the Monica Lewinsky scandal erupts and the U.S. is accused of waffling on human rights in the former Yugoslavia, Blair must decide if Clinton’s friendship is worth the aggravation. Once again, screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Deal, The Queen) has been asked to imagine what might have been said in conversations between the two world leaders, between the men and their wives and their reactions to embarrassing revelations.

Quaid is very good as the shiftless American president, who’s as difficult to pin down as mercury, and Hope Davis is spot-on as the occasionally clueless Hillary Clinton. Once again, Helen McCrory plays Blair’s wife, Cherie. Movies like these make history fun, even if the circumstances that inspired them were anything but that.

Apparently, some superheroes share a body chemistry that includes a substance that, when synthesized through nanotechnology, allows them to heal themselves at an accelerated rate. Who knew, right? In the latest edition of Marvel Knights, this serum is called Extremis and an arch-enemy of Iron Man has used it to his benefit in a battle supreme. It leaves billionaire Tony Stark at the mercy of a militia headed by Mallen, who wants to avenge the deaths of close family members.

Can the substance be used by the good guys to counter impending doom? Stay tuned.

The set includes a “conversation” with artist Adi Granov, a behind-the-scenes look at the “Marvel Knights” animation process, “Marvel Super Heroes: What the–?,” a visual history of Iron Man and a music video.

Sid & Marty Krofft’s Saturday Morning Hits is just that: a compilation of classic episodes from such beloved kiddie (and early-rising stoner) shows as H.R Pufnstuf, Lidsville, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, Bugaloos, Electra Woman & Dyna Girl, Wonderbug and Bigfoot & Wild Boy. The shows featured colorfully decorated puppets and live-action characters, who battled evil in highly unusual situations and distant lands.

Besides 154 minutes’ worth of vintage entertainment, the set adds fresh interviews with Marty Krofft and stars of the most popular shows, as well as a never-before-seen pilot episode of an early Krofft production.

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Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement
Anotherworld

When individual states began recognizing same-sex marriages, less than a decade ago, media outlets treated the collective rush to the figurative altar as if it were just another sideshow in the American circus. Photos of gays and lesbians kissing on Page One of local newspapers caused controversy and controversy sells papers – and raises ratings – at a time when consumers are looking elsewhere for their news.

After a few days, gay marriage became as commonplace in those states as ribbon-cuttings at the local mall, only less likely to rate a headline outside the weekly announcements page. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage, half of all Americans probably will weep and wail for the next 24 hours, then another crusade to champion or decry.

Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement chronicles the exclusive 40-year-plus partnership and eventual marriage two years ago, in Canada, of Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer. The non-polemical documentary showcases the evolution of their relationship through the most mundane medium known to man: home movies and slide shows.

Together, the New Yorkers reminisce about vacations, parties, friends and other shared experiences, and how their lives changed after Stonewall. For Thea, who died last year of complications associated with MS, recollections of nights spent dancing are, at once, painful and joyous. They appear to be wealthy, so most of the memories are pleasant, especially those sparked by cheesecake photos of themselves in bikinis, during summer breaks at their home in the Hamptons. That’s it, really.

A Very Long Engagement is a portrait of two people – who happen to be lesbians – in love, and the complications associated with growing old. Their marriage was far less a political statement than an affirmation of their love and dependence on each other. One is free, however, to find the political in the personal, but only so far as it pertains to legalizing something already validated by mutual commitment.

The DVD, from Breaking Glass, includes an interview with Judge Harvey Brownstone, who presided over their nuptials; coverage of Edie, as she accompanied filmmakers Susan Muska and Gréta Olafsdóttir (The Brandon Teena Story) on the festival circuit; the featurette, “Coping With Disability”; a photo gallery; and link to the segment pertaining to Edie and Thea, in “In the Life.”

The official condemnation of homosexuality by the Roman Catholic Church and its reigning pontiff, the former Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, hangs over Anotherworld like a storm cloud threatening a downpour. Pope Benedict XVI may not carry much weight in the gay ghettos of the United States, but, in Italy, the Vatican’s mind police are never very far away from home.

In Fabiomassimo Lozzi’s deeply affecting film, actors dramatize monologues taken from the works of Antonio Venetians and Ricardo Reim. They represent the heaven, hell and purgatory of homosexual culture in Italy. Along with tales dominated by fear and self-loathing are sequences filled with self-discovery and love. At times, their intimacy is overwhelming. Naturally, there is plenty of nudity and rough talk, but Anotherworld shouldn’t be confused with pornography.

Wilmington on Movies: Knight and Day and Wild Grass

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Knight and Day (Three Stars)
U.S.; James Mangold, 2010

Knight and Day doesn’t make much sense, but do we really want it to? (more…)

Knight And Day Poster

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Four Minutes of Knight & Day

Friday, May 28th, 2010

International Trailer for Knight & Day

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Trailer: Knight & Day

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

During their glamorous and sometimes deadly adventure, nothing and no one even the now fugitive couple are what they seem. Amid shifting alliances and unexpected betrayals, they race across the globe, with their survival ultimately hinging on the battle of truth vs. trust.

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