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Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Queue: Unconditional love and Oedipal wrecks in Mommy

Posted By on Thu, May 7, 2015 at 12:32 PM

Adolescence is a trauma we all have to navigate. If we're lucky, it's a relatively brief storm on the waters of life. But for Steve Després, the violent and mentally ill teenager in Mommy, adolescence has become a lethal affair. He has a raging hurricane in his head that never lets up.  The latest from 26-year-old Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan, Mommy tells the story of Steve and his damaged mother, Diane, a family in serious trouble in the suburbs of Quebec. The French-language film won the Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where it received a 10-minute standing...

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Queue: Can't make Full Frame? Check out these five great docs on Netflix

Posted By on Thu, Apr 9, 2015 at 10:54 AM

If you're heading out to this weekend's Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, be sure to check out the INDY's alarmingly large preview. But if you can't make it to the fest, you can still see some great documentaries from your couch via Netflix's streaming service, a great place to find both well-known and relatively obscure documentary films. Here are five picks for creating your own living room film festival. Watermark Co-directed by photographer Edward Burtynsky and filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal—guest curator of this year's Thematic Program at Full Frame—Watermark is an ambitious and beautiful exploration of our species' complicated...

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Queue: Netflix has a winner with sweet, kooky Tina Fey creation Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Posted By on Thu, Mar 12, 2015 at 11:38 AM

Fans of NBC's late, great 30 Rock will want to check out the new Netflix series from Tina Fey and her creative partner, Robert Carlock. Like the earlier series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has a style of joke-writing that's fast, loose and literate. It's the kind of series you can simply enjoy on one level, and also study on another. It's like a masterclass in the craft of TV comedy writing. Kimmy is headlined by the very funny writer and actress Ellie Kemper—a performer whose likability is so natural it must exist on the cellular level somehow. Kemper plays a 29-year-old...

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Queue: Jake Gyllenhaal gets his sociopath on in creepy thriller Nightcrawler

Posted By on Tue, Feb 24, 2015 at 11:40 AM

Nighttime in Los Angeles is a busy and sinister place in Nightcrawler, an unsettling thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a freelance TV news cameraman. Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, part of a ghoulish, nocturnal mutation of paparazzi—nightcrawlers—who follow cops and first responders to crime scenes and accidents. The movie makes many depressing observations about the media, particularly the cutthroat world of local TV news and that industry's enduring motto: "If it bleeds, it leads." But the real reason to track this one down, on digital or disc, is to watch Gyllenhaal's supremely menacing performance. As revealed in the behind-the-scenes bonus materials,...

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Friday, February 6, 2015

The Queue: Binge-watch on the dark side with astonishing tech-horror series Black Mirror

Posted By on Fri, Feb 6, 2015 at 11:29 AM

When more than one person suggests that I get on board with a particular Netflix binge-watching opportunity, I try to pay attention and put it in the queue. Alan Partridge, say, or Patton Oswalt's new special. When a dozen different people insist I watch something immediately—well, that's when the magic usually happens. And so it is with the deep, dark and disturbing U.K. series Black Mirror, which practices the kind of savage satire we haven't seen since Jonathan Swift made his modest proposal concerning babies. Launched in 2012 by series creator Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror is like a Twilight Zone...

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Queue: Class conflict and Victorian grotesques—you know, for the kids—in The Boxtrolls

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 at 12:00 PM

Watching the stop-motion animated film THE BOXTROLLS at home over the weekend, I went through three distinct phases of reaction: 1. Wow, this is different. 2. Wow, this is dark. 3. Wow, this is fucking amazing. I kept the f-bomb in my internal monologue—I was watching with the kids—but the rest I literally said out loud at various points. In a very strong year for smart and funny family films, The Boxtrolls was 2014’s best animated feature. It’s got my vote, anyway, and is one of five Oscar nominees in the category this year. The story: In the surreal...

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year in review: You have to see theatrical releases to rank them

Posted By on Wed, Dec 31, 2014 at 10:21 AM

Recently, the INDY asked me if I’d provide a list of the top 10 films I saw in the past year. The request threw me, because it made me realize something: There’s a lot less pressure to see a film in the theater than there used to be. Understand, I’ve never been a primary part of the skilled crew of film critics for the paper—my wheelhouse includes plays, bookstore events and comic books. Often, the films I write about are revival screenings at local theaters. But the gaps in my moviegoing this year are shameful, and the worst part is,...

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween special: Bonus Materials picks view-on-demand films for a scary movie night at home

Posted By on Mon, Oct 27, 2014 at 2:19 PM

Watching scary movies at home is a time-honored Halloween tradition, but needing to plan ahead at Blockbuster is a thing of the past. Now, if you're a Netflix subscriber, hundreds of horror movies are instantly available online. Here are 10 recommendations for streaming Halloween chills, focusing on relatively under-the-radar selections that are worth digging up from the vault—or, if you will, the grave. The Awakening (2011) An old-school haunted-manor-on-the-moors-type ghost story, this moody mystery stars Rebecca Hall as a 1920s scientific investigator whose skepticism is challenged by paranormal happenings at an old boarding school. Nice and creepy. Devil (2010) Strange...

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bonus Materials: David Lynch, nightmare membranes and Eraserhead

Posted By on Wed, Sep 17, 2014 at 2:07 PM

Thirty-seven years after its initial theatrical release, David Lynch's debut feature film Eraserhead has been reissued and upgraded to U.S. Blu-ray format in a gorgeous package from the stalwart archivists at the Criterion Collection. The reissue includes a full 4K digital restoration, six additional short films and the usual generous assortment of new and archival bonus materials. Several years in the making, Eraserhead remains a masterpiece of American independent film, albeit one shelved back in the darker aisles—where the spiders and the molds grow. It defies synopsis. The story, so far as it goes, follows a fearful man named Henry...

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bonus Materials: Bullet trains and class rage in Snowpiercer

Posted By on Wed, Aug 20, 2014 at 1:47 PM

The brutal and visionary South Korean science fiction thriller Snowpiercer made a splash a few weeks back when it finally got a wide release in U.S. theaters after an extended tussle with distributor Harvey Weinstein. That dispute almost kept it out of theaters here. Details are too complicated to go into, but the upshot is that Snowpiercer is now available via video on demand at your friendly neighborhood cable provider or online retailer. If you didn't catch it in the theater, I highly recommend it for a movie night at home. It'll mess you up. But, you know, in a...

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bonus Materials: man, machine and Transcendence

Posted By on Wed, Jul 23, 2014 at 10:27 AM

Hollywood has yet to make an adaptation of William Gibson's 1984 cyberpunk novel Neuromancer. And it's not for lack of trying—probably a dozen projects have started and stalled in the last 30 years.  But if you've read the book and followed science fiction movies in the years since, it's astounding how many of Gibson's ideas have percolated into the pop culture consciousness. What's more, dozens of tossed-off details from his early books have proven prescient in recent years—stealth wear, corporate personhood and our current surveillance state concerns. It's freaky. Get a couple of coffees in me and I can go on...

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Friday, July 12, 2013

DVD+Digital: Aging, apocalypse and After People

Posted By on Fri, Jul 12, 2013 at 2:47 PM

courtesy of History channel Ever since aging through the sad end of the 18-35 demographic, I find my television tastes have drifted. When clicking around these days, I tend to linger on the pop scholarship offered by basic cable stations like History, Discovery, National Geographic and Animal Planet. My conclusion is that I like reality TV, I just don't like reality TV about people. As such, the three-disc collection After People — new to DVD from the History channel — is right up my misanthropic alley. After People trades in that brand of speculation and imagery sometimes called apocalypse porn....

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Friday, July 5, 2013

DVD+Digital: Mel Brooks, political correctness and The Producers

Posted By on Fri, Jul 5, 2013 at 6:48 PM

courtesy of Shout! Factory As a filmmaker, Mel Brooks' brand of comedy is often broad, usually excessive and always delivered in the spirit of goofiness. In his best genre parodies — Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, High Anxiety — no gag is too obvious, no joke is too dumb. Brooks' first movie, though, was different. Released in 1968, Brooks' barbed satire The Producers was considered so edgy and radical that none of the major studios would touch it. The director eventually secured independent distribution, but the film opened in only a handful of theaters and quickly disappeared. Reissued this week in...

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

DVD+Digital: Old reissues, new technology and infinite TV/movies

Posted By on Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 2:35 PM

courtesy of Shout! Factory It's a funny thing about new releases in the digital and DVD business — some weeks you get nothing particularly interesting, and some weeks you get everything under the sun. A recent flood of titles suggests the variety of options in that realm we can still call, with relative accuracy, home video. The landscape is changing rapidly these days. Popular Hollywood movies no longer just "come out on video." Instead, they're rolled out in waves, in various retail packages — single disc DVD, multi-disc DVD/Blu-ray combo packs — and digital formats. ("Digital" is the emerging catch-all...

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

DVD+Digital: Mike Leigh, British food trucks and Life is Sweet

Posted By on Sat, Jun 15, 2013 at 3:41 PM

courtesy of the Criterion Collection British filmmaker Mike Leigh is known for his very particular way of making films. Rather than start with a script, Leigh works with his actors in a designated improvisation period before filming begins. The director provides sketched-out ideas and characters, but the actors become full collaborators in the creation of the story and the making of the film. It's a model that's used by other filmmakers, often in comedies. Christopher Guest takes a similar approach in his mockumentaries, as does Larry David in the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm. But Leigh's technique is, by all...

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Saturday, June 1, 2013

DVD+Digital: Spalding Gray, the theater of war and Swimming to Cambodia

Posted By on Sat, Jun 1, 2013 at 4:31 PM

courtesy of Shout! Factory I first saw Swimming to Cambodia — the film version of Spalding Gray's groundbreaking monologue — on VHS my senior year of high school, by way of my first serious girlfriend Courtney. A fellow theater nerd, Courtney was also a dedicated goth girl and introduced me to many new and exotic things, like Bauhaus records and the BBC punk comedy The Young Ones. As cool girlfriends often do, Courtney improved my taste and expanded my horizons. Here was an entirely riveting performance that featured one man, sitting behind a desk, talking about war and art and...

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

DVD+Digital: Ex-cons, Viagra jokes and Stand Up Guys

Posted By on Thu, May 23, 2013 at 4:42 PM

courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment Slight, shaggy and sentimental, the crime comedy Stand Up Guys has exactly three virtues to recommend it. Those would be the film's trio of lead actors: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin. Nobody's gunning for glory with the performances here, but nobody phones it in, either. Anyway, these three could make a 90-minute film talking about the U.S. Tax Code and still be interesting. Pacino headlines as Val, a career criminal just getting out of the joint after a 28-year stint. Val took the fall for his crew after a botched robbery and ended...

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

DVD+Digital: Rooney Mara, antidepressants and Side Effects

Posted By on Thu, May 16, 2013 at 11:44 PM

courtesy of Open Road Films The latest and maybe final film from director Steven Soderbergh, Side Effects isn't the movie that it first appears to be. About halfway through, the story pivots and another film emerges. Then a most curious thing happens: It isn't that movie, either. Rooney Mara (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) stars as Emily Taylor, a formerly upper-crusty sort whose life is upended when her financier husband Martin (Channing Tatum) goes to prison for insider trading. When Martin gets out of jail, Emily does her best to pick up the pieces, but she's paralyzed with severe...

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

DVD+Digital: Shane Carruth, psychic orchids and Upstream Color

Posted By on Thu, May 9, 2013 at 10:06 AM

courtesy of Cinedigm Filmmaker Shane Carruth made his bones in the indie film world with the 2004 science fiction puzzle Primer. The ultra-low budget film, concerning a group of engineers who accidentally invent time travel, collected the Grand Jury Prize at that year's Sundance Film Festival. It's become something of a legend in filmmaking circles: Primer was made for a little over $7,000 with Carruth acting as director, writer, producer, cinematographer, editor, co-star and musical composer. For fans of thinky, conceptual sci-fi, it's a real gem. After seeing it on DVD, I spent hours online trying to figure out all...

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

DVD+Digital: Cyborgs, Shakespeare and Star Trek: The Next Generation

Posted By on Thu, May 2, 2013 at 1:06 PM

courtesy of Paramount Home Media If you only pay attention to what cycles around to Redbox, Netflix or your old-school video rental place, you might get the sense that only a handful of new home video titles get released each week. Not so. While the high-profile Hollywood titles get the most attention, new DVDs, Blu-rays and digital releases in any given week number in the dozens — new movies, old reissues, TV series collections, independent films, documentaries, foreign films and a disturbing number of Hallmark Channel original movies. If you're willing to spend an entirely disproportionate amount of time in...

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Friday, April 26, 2013

DVD+Digital: Guns, Molls and Gangster Squad

Posted By on Fri, Apr 26, 2013 at 10:01 AM

courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures The period L.A. crime drama Gangster Squad — starring Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn and Emma Stone — is best known for its poor timing. Following the movie theater mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado in July 2012, the release date for Gangster Squad was bumped. The film's centerpiece action sequence depicted, yes, a mass shooting in a movie theater. The cast reassembled in August for additional shooting and the scene was replaced for the film's rescheduled opening in January, 2013. But critics didn't like it, audiences didn't notice it, the marketing was halfhearted and...

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

DVD+Digital: Cold feet, Lizzy Caplan and Save the Date

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2013 at 10:22 PM

courtesy of IFC Films The indie romantic dramedy Save the Date — new to DVD, Blu-ray and digital this week — starts in awfully familiar territory. Twenty-something Sarah (Lizzy Caplan) is a bookstore clerk and aspiring artist who's about to have her sketches premiere in a small gallery. Her boyfriend Kevin (Geoffrey Arend, Body of Proof) is the lead singer of an appropriately hip indie band. They've just moved in together. Meanwhile, Sarah's older sister Beth (Alison Brie, Mad Men) is planning her own wedding to fiance Andrew (Martin Starr, Adventureland), drummer for said indie band. Both couples are on...

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Friday, April 12, 2013

DVD+Digital: True love, bat demons and The Sorcerer and the White Snake

Posted By on Fri, Apr 12, 2013 at 9:20 AM

courtesy of Magnolia Pictures And now for something completely different. A loopy Buddhist fable in the shape of a blockbuster action pic, The Sorcerer and the White Snake features several big-name Hong Kong stars battling snakes, demons and one another in ancient China. The movie was a big hit overseas in 2011 and has finally rolled around to home video release in the U.S. Based on a famous Chinese folk tale, the story concerns Abbot Fahai (Jet Li) — a battle-tested monk who leads his disciples in a perpetual war against the demons of the land. Fahai doesn't kill the...

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

DVD+Digital: Baseball lore, Jedi masters and Knuckleball

Posted By on Thu, Apr 4, 2013 at 9:41 AM

courtesy of FilmBuff Behold the mysterious knuckleball. Unlike baseball's other pitches — the fastball, the curve, the slider — the knuckleball does not rely on spin and velocity to defeat hitters at the plate. Instead, the knuckleball floats in at a slacker's pace (60-70 mph, usually, as opposed to the fastball's 90 mph range) and ideally doesn't spin at all. That lack of spin causes interesting things to happen to the air currents around the ball as it travels to the plate. It swerves and dips, flutters and dives. The new documentary Knuckleball, new to DVD and digital this week,...

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

DVD+Digital: Crime thrillers, Swedish gangsters and Easy Money

Posted By on Thu, Mar 28, 2013 at 8:37 PM

courtesy of the Weinstein Company Johan "JW" Westlund, ace student at the Stockholm School of Economics, likes to take risks. A poor kid from the Swedish equivalent of Iowa, JW hobnobs with the capital city rich kids, pretending to a wealth he doesn't have and lying to everyone he knows. He's the Talented Mr. Ripley of the Stockholm jet set, and he's looking for a fast track to the big money. Jorge is young Chilean drug-runner on the run from the cops and the Serbian mob. Recently escaped from prison, Jorge has aligned himself with an Arab crime syndicate and...

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You stopped the arts coverage to cover the election..... You were probably better off just covering the arts, rather than …

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