Mar 12POSTED BY RICK - 12:30PM
Over the next couple of weeks, you'll be hearing a lot about Harmony Korine's SPRING BREAKERS, about some college girls gone bad. (We're talking Selena Gomez gone bad, among others.)
There is a whole genre of girl gang movies, and we've got a few in our library...
Mar 2POSTED BY - 10:18AM
Hurry! Rent TWILIGHT, THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON, and TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE until the end of March, when the rental window will end on these favorites. Or build your collection with new, lower prices on all Twilight purchases. And the window for renting THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 will be short, too, so get your Twilight on NOW!
Mar 2POSTED BY KATIE - 9:46AM
We're all waiting to see the effects of sequestration, the mandatory budget cuts of $85 billion enacted on March 1 because our elected leaders failed to compromise on what programs should be cut. President Obama warns the sequestration will hit hardest at the most vulnerable populations. With one in every four children already facing some sort of food shortage, it's devastating to think of what sequestration will bring to families facing hunger.
That means now is the best time to think about that, and A PLACE AT THE TABLE, an award-winning documentary, considers the 50 million people in the United States who don't know where they'll find their next meal. This film opened March 1 in theaters, but it's not coming to every town so home viewers have now a great opportunity to learn more about this pressing social problem. What's uplifting about the film is that it addresses solutions as well as the problems.
A PLACE AT THE TABLE is narrated by Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges, and features interviews with activist chef Tom Colicchio, sociologist Janet Poppendieck, author Raj Patel, Witness to Hunger's Mariana Chilton, plus other experts. The heart of the film rests in the three families struggling with food insecurity that directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush feature to show us that hunger in America is closer to our own homes than we realize.
Backing this effort is a comprehensive Website (the film and Website all produced by the same people who brought us FOOD, INC.) with easy steps for taking action, links for people who need food assistance, opportunities to help fight hunger. This is a powerful grassroots effort to fight the problems ordinary Americans are facing -- something we expect our elected officials to do rather than play politics and leaving town without preventing sequestration. We need food, jobs, and prosperity! Take action today.
Mar 2POSTED BY KATIE - 9:11AM
As you know, vampires live forever, so Bella's just begun to experience eternity by the ending of the final film of the Twilight series, THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2. We've got a few older, more kitschy vampires who want to visit you this weekend.
Notorious director Roman Polanski is known for three things: 1) impeccable filmmaking, 2) sexual entanglements with underaged girls, 3) his marriage to Sharon Tate when the sexy actress, then 8 1/2 months pregnant, was brutally murdered by Charles Manson in 1968. It was while directing and acting in FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS, a vampire comedy, that he met Sharon Tate.
They were each at a turning point in their careers. With FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS, Polanski was directing his first color film, a relatively big budget spectacle that would allow him to branch out from the art house success of his thriller, REPULSION (1965). Tate had been a lifelong beauty and first started her film career while living in Italy with her Army family (she was an extra in BARABBAS), but floundered in Hollywood until 1965 when she scored her first major role in EYE OF THE DEVIL (1966). Polanski reluctantly cast her in FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS, dubious of her lack of acting experience, but fell in love with her during the filming in Italy. Their work together in this cult film rescues it from oblivion, as does the film's striking visual style. Now it enjoys pop culture revival, according to Wikipedia, inspiring Doom metal band Pagan Altar, a London alt rock band named "Fearless Vampire Killers," plus a Skinny Puppy song called "Rivers."
Another vintage vampire flick to put on your list this weekend is DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE. This 1968 horror film came from Britain's famed Hammer Film Productions, a long-lasting production house that turned towards horror in the 1950s to create legendary films about Frankenstein, The Mummy, and eight Dracula films. DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE is the first of this series to star Christopher Lee, and has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 79%.
These two films should be on the watch list of any fan of Bella and Edward.
Feb 18POSTED BY KATIE - 5:50PM
Ben Affleck's thriller, ARGO, opens with uncanny parallels to the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya last fall that ended in the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and other three other Americans. But the director/actor firmly rooted this true story of the hostage crisis in 1979 through careful production design. Affleck knew that if the film looked like others from that era, he'd add to the film's realism and relevance, saying: "If you’re looking at a movie that looks like it was made in the 1970s, it’s more easy for the brain to subconsciously accept the events they’re watching are taking place during that period. Now, you can’t do that if you’re doing a movie about the revolutionary war. We had an interesting advantage: the era I was trying to replicate was a really great era for filmmaking. I got to copy these really great filmmakers: Sidney Lumet, Scorsese, and so on."
One of the biggest influences Affleck cites in terms of getting the look just right of shaggy hair and a 1970s beard was ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. Affleck also credits his costume designer, Jaqui West, with getting the right look: "She didn't want to do SHAFT, with the fur coats and bell-bottoms and stuff. It was going to be the true '70s clothes and hairdos and everything, but they would be part of the texture of the background, not the foreground telling the story, going, 'Oh, isn't it cute, isn't it funny, the '70s are so crazy.'"
Filmmaking in the 1970s is a great model for any creative filmmaker. LA Times' reviewer Kenneth Turan confirms that ARGO recalls a time "when Hollywood regularly turned out smart and engaging films that crackled with energy and purpose." We've selected a few from the Film Fresh collection that are worth another look, especially those 1970s films that focused on Americans trapped in foreign, hostile territory -- THE PASSENGER (1975), an existential film from Italian master Michelangelo Antonioni, and MIDNIGHT EXPRESS (dir. Alan Parker, 1978), a cautionary tale about young Americans imprisoned after caught trying to smuggle drugs out of Turkey. Both films reveal the hubris that can be brought by Americans to other countries, where they naively assume that freedom and justice are inalienable rights.
The era's preoccupation with the theme of escape is also expressed powerfully in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975), Milos Forman's award-winning film also starring Jack Nicholson as a patient in a mental institution. (All of Nicholson's characters from this era are rebelling against the constrictions of class, marriage, and career -- parts that he played like no one else could.) We also think the politics represented in ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (dir. Alan J. Pakula, 1976) and THE CONVERSATION (dir. Francis Ford Coppola, 1974) reveal 1970s anxieties about surveillance and subterfuge, topics still significant today.
Feb 12POSTED BY KATIE - 10:44AM
It's a bitter truth that love can be fleeting. Here today, gone tomorrow -- especially among the younger millennial generation not yet tied down by marriage, mortgages, and money problems.
So, too, digital home movies about millennial romances don't stick around forever, so we wanted to alert you that one of our favorite new relationship films, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, won't be available for rent after 2/12 (however, it will still be available for sale through at least October, and it's certainly worth owning for those emergency love film fests at home). Why does this happen? Why does love flee from the online film stores? It's because the studios that distribute these films create demand (and revenue) by shifting the "windows" in which it is available.
A digital film "window" refers to the span of time between a film's first availability and its disappearance from the digital feed; these windows are set by the distributors, not by Film Fresh. And different retailers could have different windows for the same film; for instance, Film Fresh gets digital rights for new and pre-theatrical films before a subscription digital service does (that's why you don't have to wait to watch ROBOT & FRANK online at Film Fresh but you do at other places). There are equivalent sales windows on DVDs and Blu-rays as well, but the digital stream can be cut off more abruptly than the inventory of plastic discs in stores and disc-subscription services.
These windows have advantages as well as the disadvantage of rentals that disappear -- the digital option is how we can offer films before they're in theaters, as with the comedy IF I WERE YOU, which you can watch right now for a few weeks before it disappears for a few months when it will be available in movie theaters and on cable TV, then we'll get it back again. Increasingly, distributors are experimenting with pre-theatrical options, or with making a film available on the same day and date it opens in theaters, as with SOUND CITY. Sure, there's a slight premium price set by distributors for these early releases, but that is minimal compared to the cost of a theater ticket and transportation (although we also love going to the movie theater, too, but on a work night, a digital rental can be a pretty sweet alternative).
Digital windows mean there are pleasant surprises, too, like the fact that 3 of the 4 the TWILIGHT movies are for rent this month, in time for Valentine's Day, as Lionsgate builds up to release THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 on March 2 -- when you'll be able to get it here at Film Fresh.
So go beyond being just a romantic date and be a smart Valentine -- rent SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED today since it won't be for rent tomorrow. Your rentals stay active in your account for 30 days, so you'll have until mid-March to watch it (but why wait, it's a fresh, fun film about the risks required by romance, so maybe you should watch it before February 14).
Happy Valentine's Day!
Feb 11POSTED BY KATIE - 5:35PM
Mardi Gras is 2/13, so we wanted to find something a bit more enlightening than MARDI GRAS: SPRING BREAK, a 2011 comedy with college guys on a road trip, boobs flashed on Bourbon Street, and the perennially favorite feces bomb. We happily re-discovered some favorite films set in New Orleans, including the clever neo-noir, THE BIG EASY (1986), starring a sultry Ellen Barkin in a highly popular and successful thriller; Clint Eastwood's sex-panicked role as a cop trying to swallow his urges for kinky sex as he tries to catch a kinky serial murderer, TIGHTROPE (1984); and two important documentaries made about the despicable response of rescue authorities after Hurricane Katrina, the award-winning TROUBLE THE WATER (2008), a fascinating doc stitching together home movies and sophisticated storytelling with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 96%, and THE BIG UNEASY, by humorist and radio personality Harry Shearer, an investigative look at his adopted hometown five years after the disaster.
Feb 11POSTED BY KATIE - 4:56PM
BROOKLYN CASTLE triumphs as an underdog tale of unlikely chess masters -- kids from Brooklyn's immigrant or impoverished homes -- who consistently hold their place as the best junior high chess team in the nation. Guiding them in chess strategy and competition skills are team coach Elizabeth Vicary, a chess master herself, and John Galvin, the junior high's vice-principal who scrambles for every penny the team gets to compete nationally. The film follows the challenges faced by the five competitors in their family lives as well as in the championship matches, telling an emotional story about how these kids' aspirations have been lifted beyond the poverty line through the mental rigors of chess and the dedicated encouragement of adults.
We also have two additional noteworthy documentaries, each nominated for an Academy Award (the Oscars will be held in less than two weeks, on February 24). SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN is an uplifting film about the 1970s folk singer Rodriguez, whose music became the heartbeat of South Africa's anti-apartheid and progressive student movements. But Rodriguez seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth, and this film solves the mystery of what and how that happened. The film has rekindled international acclaim for this unassuming musician -- we're happy to be hearing his songs on our local public radio station and offering this fantastic film in our stores. (Also, see our article on "must-see" music documentaries.)
THE INVISIBLE WAR is also up for an Oscar on the 24th and an Indie Spirit Award on February 23, the only film documentary to span these two major awards ceremonies. Oscar-winning director Kirby Dick has made a powerful film about sexual abuse in the military and issues of justice, service to one's nation, and the power to cover up an appalling record of rape. It's investigative documentary filmmaking at its best, for the film that prompted former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to announce reforms before he left office. Kirby Dick has said, "this movie was made to change policy," but he adds that military investigations must still be taken out of the chain of command. February 14, 2013, is 1 Billion Rising Day, a nationwide day of action protesting violence against women, and this is one important film that just might get you off the couch and dancing in protest along with others this coming Thursday.
The Rotten Tomatoes score, a compilation of reviews of professional film critics, for THE INVISIBLE WAR is 100%, 96% for SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN, and 98% for BROOKLYN CASTLE. Where else can you be assured that your $3.99 is going to enlighten, entertain, or astound you? Don't wait for the Oscars; cast your own vote now by choosing one of these powerful documentaries.
Feb 5POSTED BY KATIE - 1:30PM
The Grammy Foundation works to fill the void in music education in high schools by actively getting teens involved in music. Their mission is to create opportunities for high school students to work with music professionals to get real-world experience and advice about how to have a career in music. And that includes any kind of music career – audio engineer, concert promoter, electronic music producer, manager, musician, music journalist, singer, songwriter – any music career.
Feb 5POSTED BY KATIE - 12:39PM
SOUND CITY adds to the line-up of truly fascinating documentaries about music now available -- many with Rotten Tomatoes scores over 95%, showing noteworthy unanimity by critics that these are really great films.
SOUND CITY is about a recording studio that opened in 1969 an industrial area of Van Nuys, California. Rough on the outside, Sound City on the inside fostered the absolute artistry of recording engineers who helped create over 100 gold and platinum records, including the distinctive sound of Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours," Nirvana's "Nevermind," plus albums by Neil Young, The Grateful Dead, Tom Petty, Pat Benator, Nine Inch Nails, and many others. That's how Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl fell in love with the place, fueling an admiration for that history and artistry that led to his role as director of SOUND CITY.
At the center of the story is the Neve Recording Console, just one of four in the whole world, which Grohl bought when Sound City shut its doors in 2011. The Neve Console anchors the film's insights about the shift in music from analog to digital.
Archival footage, interviews with sound designer Rupert Neve (who created only four of these consoles) as well as the musicians whose careers were made on the Neve console, and some inspired jamming by Paul McCartney and Trent Reznor all make this a terrific film for anyone interested in music or history.
If you live in a big city like New York or Los Angeles, you might be lucky enough to catch SOUND CITY while it's still in theaters, but we've got it for home viewers right now. Thank you, Dave Grohl.
Don't forget SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN, another great documentary (with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 96%) about the 1970s American folk singer Rodrigo whose record became the sound track to South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, although Rodrigo didn't know it!
More legendary docs on music:
This is the classic rock ' n roll documentary made by master D.A. Pennebaker, with intimate moments of Dylan and his entourage, including then-girlfriend Joan Baez. Rotten Tomatoes score is 100%
An overlooked documentary of a trip made to Zaire by James Brown, B.B. King, Celia Cruz, The Spinners and others. They attended a music festival there in 1974 that coincided with the famed fight by Mohammed Ali and George Forman. The film reminds viewers of how important music is to political movements and progressive identity.
A more contemporary musical duo, Glen Hansard (of the Irish band The Frames) fell in love with singer Marketa Irglova as they made the film ONCE together. This documentary gives a peek behind the scenes to their unlikely love affair, the music they made together, and how they weathered a break up.
As infectious as Bob Marley's music is, this documentary looks beyond Bob's beats to his ability to spread the uplifting gospel of reggae with his prophetic insights on society and culture. Rotten Tomatoes score is 95%.
Director Wim Wenders and musician Ry Cooder went to Cuba to find the legendary "soneros" musicians of Cuba's golden age of night clubs from the 1930s - 50s. Some had retired, some had given up music, but all rallied when invited to play together again, in Cuba and at Carnegie Hall. It's a great film.