• Finds of the Day - 1/14/09

    Eric Rohmer's 2007 film, THE ROMANCE OF ASTREA AND CELADON.

    Box office revenues in China increased by 44 percent ($908 million) in 2009 as the Chinese added 600 movie screens across the country. Their box office revenues have grown by an average 30 percent over the past six years (more).

    Five film juries have been formed for 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Parker Posey, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (SUPER SIZE ME), director Karyn Kusama (GIRLFIGHT and JENNIFER'S BODY) are among the selected jurors, along with Wes Anderson's cinematographer and the editor of Entertainment Weekly. A complete list of jurors is available for viewing here.

    SLATE Magazine writer Dana Stevens describes in her article "Body and Soul" the lasting appeal of Eric Rohmer's films. Rohmer, a celebrated French director, died this week at the age of 89. Stevens quotes the philosopher Gerard Legrand, who once wrote that "Rohmer is constantly inviting you to be intelligent …. In fact, more intelligent than his characters." She explains this further, "The first part of that statement is impeccably observed: A Rohmer movie doesn't clobber you with its smarts; it generously furnishes you a space in which to think for yourself." Rohmer's last film, created in 2007, is THE ROMANCE OF ASTREA AND CELADON and is available for viewing on FilmFresh. The film received the Golden Lion at the 2007 Venice Film Festival.

  • This Just In - 1/12/10

    With the success of films like STAR TREK, DISTRICT 9 and AVATAR, 2009 might be looked back at as the year science fiction dominated. Another of the year’s most celebrated sci-fi films comes to Film Fresh today on DVD and DivX download: Duncan Jones’ MOON.

    Made for $500,000, this British independent film stars Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, an astronaut living in solitude on the moon. At the end of his three-year assignment, a terrible incident exasperates his feelings of loneliness and isolation.

    MOON premiered last year at the Sundance Film Festival and received a limited distribution in the summer. The film was largely successful with critics, who appreciate the film's examination of the human condition within the sci-fi genre.

    Critic James Berardinelli of REELVIEWS wrote in his review, “This film does not feature explosions. It does not contain endless, mind-numbing chase sequences. Instead, it's a simple idea-rich storyline that explores areas science fiction fans will find familiar: the concept of artificial intelligence, whether prolonged isolation can lead to psychosis, and where bioethics is headed.” (more)

    The films focus on the psychological, rather then the spectacle, earned it the 2009 British Indepdendent Film Award for best film. (more)

    Check out this video interview with director Duncan Jones and let us know how you think MOON stacks up with some of your favorite sci-fi films.

    It’s also worth mentioning that we have the popular web series THE BANNEN WAY, now available as a DivX download. There’s also Paramount’s direct-to-DVD crime thriller, WRONG TURN AT TAHOE with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Harvey Keitel.

    Wondering what happened to GOONIES star Cory Feldman? We think you’ll enjoy the horror-camp film PUPPET MASTER VS. DEMONIC TOYS in all its hilarious absurdity.

  • We recommend OUT OF SIGHT

    Terrence Rafferty of the NYTimes writes in his article "Being Clooney: Not as Easy as It Looks" that George Clooney's success, propelled by his obvious charm and good looks, is also largely due to his self-awareness as an actor, choosing roles that complement his skills. "He hasn't typecast himself," Rafferty writes, "It’s fairer to say that he has chosen his roles with an extremely canny awareness of his range...You wouldn’t want to see him as Richard III, and he’s smart enough not to try."

    Unlike actors like Johnny Depp and Daniel Day-Lewis, Clooney's "range" doesn't extend wide across the spectrum, but he still manages to present his audiences with variety. Take his roles in the Coen brothers films, O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU? and BURN AFTER READING, in addition to OCEAN'S ELEVEN and TWELVE: although these movies are both full of exaggerated, nearly cartoon-like characters, Clooney's performance is still restrained, digestible, and recognizably "Clooney".

    Rafferty believes that Steven Soderbergh's comic caper movie OUT OF SIGHT is the first film in which Clooney found his identity in a role that put him "at ease". In the film, Clooney plays a thief and escaped convict who admires the United States Marshal, played by Jennifer Lopez, who is trying to bring him down. "His performance is all sly looks and bone-dry readings," Rafferty writes, describing the successful, "bankable" star persona that became the foundation for Clooney's career.

  • Finds of the Day - 1/6/10

    Happy 2010!

    Things might be looking up, according to film writer Bob Verini's report on recent trends in Academy Award-worthy films. While gloomy movies like NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, and THE READER have dominated awards shows in recent years, Verini believes that a sea change has occurred. With awards ceremonies recognizing films like Pete Docter, Bob Peterson and Thomas McCarthy's UP, Nora Ephron's JULIE AND JULIA, and even (500) DAYS OF SUMMER, it appears that cheery movies are taking the lead (more).

    Sam Mendes, the acclaimed director of AMERICAN BEAUTY and ROAD TO PERDITION, may direct the next James Bond movie. While Mendes is renowned for his eclectic projects, from gangster period dramas to contemporary road-trip comedies like last year's AWAY WE GO, the film community is surprised by this news. Nonetheless, Mendes' publicist, Sara Keene, confirmed this morning that Mendes has been meeting with the Bond franchise, though nothing is confirmed yet (more).

    Some conservative movie critics are upset by the political messages behind James Cameron's latest film, AVATAR. James Nolte, for instance, calls the movie "a thinly disguised, heavy-handed and simplistic sci-fi fantasy/allegory critical of America from our founding straight through to the Iraq War." Nolte continues: "It looks like a big-budget animated film with a garish color palette right off a hippie's tie dye shirt" (more).

  • Finds of the Day - 12/30/09

    Twenty five films, including THE MUPPET MOVIE, THRILLER and PILLOW TALK, were added to the Library of Congress' National Film Registry, an official federal archive of "culturally significant" films that are deemed suitable for preservation. These films are now among 500 other pictures in the Registry, which began in 1989 as an integral part of the National Film Preservation Act. Other highlights from the list of 25 new films include THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (more).

    In the countdown to 2010, a review of this decade in films reveals a new era for Hollywood, which has reached the $10 billion mark. Ticket revenues in North America from 2000 through 2009 are slightly more than $10 billion, which sets a new record for the movie business (more).

    2009 was the year of THE HANGOVER. How does that make you feel?

    The New York Times writes about THE HANGOVER as the epitome of a "2009 film", the type of "relatable, nonthinking comedy" that moviegoers turned to during the recession to escape their troubles and have a good laugh. "A little raunch but not too much, please (BRUNO seemed to push it too far) are the perfect balm for the recession," the article says. THE HANGOVER cost $35 million to produce and sold $459.4 million at the global box office (more).

  • This Just In - 12/29/09

    Director Oren Peli films actress Katie Featherston in PARANORMAL ACTIVITY

    The horror movie cultural phenomenon that is PARANORMAL ACTIVITY comes to Film Fresh on DVD and DivX download. The work of first-time Israeli director Oren Peli, the film focuses on a young couple that find themselves haunted by a supernatural presence.

    This low-budget, independent horror film premièred in 2007, but didn’t captivate movie audiences until this past summer. Utilizing guerilla style marketing via Twitter and,  PARANORMAL ACTIVITY played only in cities where people requested special midnight screenings. An aura of mystique developed around the film, creating immediate buzz and helping it earn over $140 million. This was an incredible feat for a film that had a budget of only $15,000, thus making it the most profitable film in history.

    Due to its unique back-story, the press and critics covered the film extensively.  Mary Elizabeth Williams of SALON.COM chronicled the movie’s success in her review, stating, “It delivers satisfyingly gasp-out-loud scares.” (more)

    While world famous critic Roger Ebert of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES wrote in his review, “PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is an ingenious little horror film, so well made it's truly scary.” (more)

    See what all the hype is about and, hopefully, get the pants scared off of you.

    Another film completed in 2007 that finally saw a wide release in 2009 is the horror thriller, CARRIERS. Starring Chris Pine of recent STAR TREK fame, CARRIERS focuses on four people who are fleeing a viral pandemic.

    Acclaimed horror writer Stephen King calls the film “A sharp but small horror flick.” (more)

    is a smaller, indie release featuring actors Ben Stiller and Jason Schwartzman. Schwartzman stars as Marc Pease, a young man who reminisces the days when he starred in his high school’s stage musicals.

    It's also worth mentioning that we have added the French film APRES LUI, the Italian political thriller IL DIVO, and the third release by Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, THREE MONKEYS, for sale on DVD in our expanding World section. Jim Jarmusch’s latest, THE LIMITS OF CONTROL, is also available on DVD in the Film Fresh Indie section.

  • We Recommend SUGAR

    In an interview with writer/director team Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Fleck says that they interviewed about 500 Domenicans for the part of Miguel “Sugar” Santos. Alegnis Soto, who they eventually chose for the part, was number 452, and was also a baseball player without any acting experience. Watching this film, it is apparent that this level of meticulousness and authenticity went into every last detail, especially in their treatment of the film’s characters. People like Santos or the Churchgoers featured in SUGAR could have easily been typecast as flat, poorly-written stereotypes, as you often encounter films like THE BLIND SIDE. Fleck and Boden, however, clearly took the time to know their characters, and to care about them, as well. Click here to watch SUGAR.

  • We Recommend BATMAN BEGINS

    Director Christopher Nolan resurrected Warner Bros.’ Batman franchise with his reboot, BATMAN BEGINS. Working as an origin story, Nolan draws inspiration from some of the most intriguing stories written about the character, specifically Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. Steering away from the campy spectacle the Batman film series had become, Nolan takes a new approach and opts for realism. What would Batman be like if he operated in our modern world? Shot primarily on location in Chicago, Nolan’s Gotham City is filled with realistic corruption, greed and crime. It resonates in a way that no other cinematic adaptation of the caped crusader before it has. The film explores greater themes of vengance and justice in a way that feels poingnant, not tacked on like in previous Batman films. Actor Christian Bale is both a terrific Bruce Wayne and Batman, a combination sorely lacking from earlier adaptations. Fans of the comic book will not be disappointed and those generally turned off by films about super heroes may find themselves converted. BATMAN BEGINS is truly one of the best films about a comic book character ever made.

  • This Just In - 12/22/09

    Few films this past summer were as beloved by critics and audiences as DISTRICT 9. The directorial debut of South African native Neil Blomkamp, the film centers on a government relocation of aliens living in refugee camps. 

    This premise was the subject of Blomkamp’s short film “Alive in Joburg,” which is still available to view online. (more)

    DISTRICT 9 was shot on the moderate budget of $30 million and featured a cast of relative unknowns. This led many critics to refer to the film as a ‘sleeper hit,' as it would end up bringing in over $200 million worldwide. (more)

    Claudia Puig of USA TODAY commented upon this in her original review, finding that the budget and cast work in the film's favor.  “DISTRICT 9 proves that sci-fi thrillers don't have to be star-studded or mega-budgeted to be visually compelling and thoroughly entertaining.” (more)

    Other critics appreciated the films allegorical elements, examining the parallels between the treatment of aliens in the film to the treatment of Blacks in South Africa. WASHINGTON POST writer John Anderson states, “The poison that permeates the phenomenal DISTRICT 9 is the same toxin that has defined so much of human history: The oppression of the Other. In this case, that means scaly aliens with feelers for faces who are confined to South African-style ‘townships,’ and who, in director-writer Neill Blomkamp's allegorical thrill ride, represent every tyrannized population since the institution of the pogrom. A sci-fi-fueled indictment of man's inhumanity to man -- and the non-human – DISTRICT 9 is all horribly familiar, and transfixing.” (more)

    Adding to the film’s praise is a Golden Globe nomination for Blomkamp and co-writer Teri Tatchell for Best Screenplay, which is leading many to speculate that  Blomkamp and Tatchell may also earn an Academy Award nomination as well. (more)

    Guitar and rock aficionados will enjoy the music documentary IT MIGHT GET LOUD, a film that explores the history of the electric guitar through the styles and personalities of famous guitarists Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), The Edge (U2) and Jack White (The White Stripes). Directed by Davis Guggenheim (AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH), the film premiered at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival and received a primarily positive reaction from critics.

    Owen Gleiberman of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY calls it, “pure candy for the guitar hero in all of us.” (more)


    Nancy Meyers' latest film, ITS COMPLICATED (to be released on Christmas day), has received 3 Golden Globe nominations, including a nomination in the Best Picture category. The film stars Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin (the 2 hosts of the Academy Awards), along with Meryl Streep, who stars as a 60-something divorcee having an affair with her ex-husband. Director Meyers has a knack for creating refreshing romance comedies starring divorcee characters who are 20 to 30 years older than your average boring romcom star, just as she did in this wonderful film, SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE. You know how watching Adam Sandler in FUNNY PEOPLE was sort of like watching a biography of Adam Sandler (if he had actually been diagnosed with a terminal illness)? This movie is sort of like that, but infinitely less depressing. If you imagined what would happen if the snarky, iconic Jack Nicholson fell in love with the independent, confident Diane Keaton at the age of 65, it might look a lot like this: two egos, stranded at a mansion in the Hamptons, who are too successful and hardened to realize they might actually like each other. We didn't expect to like this film, but we did. Think of it as the romance comedy for people who don't like romance comedies.


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