Jun 23POSTED BY KATIE - 10:00PM
Now that films come in 3-D with multi-million dollar budgets and computer effects, the humble moving pictures of the first thirty years of filmmaking history may seem slow. Before 1927, film technology hadn't advanced to record sound alongside the film track, so films had no dialogue and had to rely on acting and visual storytelling as well as intertitles (when plot turns are explained through written words). These early films may be simple, but they're dedicated to gripping your attention through drama, slapstick, or romance, and they explore the new arts of cinematography, lighting, and screen acting. They're important history of modern filmmaking -- especially now that Oscar-winning director Michel Hazanivicius has remixed those elements into such an entertaining, exciting film as THE ARTIST. Part of what makes THE ARTIST so fun is the exaggerated gestures of the actors, their timing, and themes of love and death.
Get a taste of a silent film by renting one for just $1.99-$2.99
In the beginning, filmmakers turned the cameras on to talented comedians like Charlie Chaplin, whose slapstick antics and emotional aura remain highly original even today. Here are five of his classic short films.
BEN HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST (1925) by Fred Niblo
An immediate box office smash, this silent masterpiece follows a Palestinian Jew who battles against the tyranny of the Roman empire. With a cast of thousands, it remains one of the most expensive silents ever-produced. Features a hair-raising chariot race that holds its own against today's best action films. Selected by the prestigious American Film Institute as one of the 400 best American films of all time. Inducted in the Library of Congress National Film Registry.
MONEY TALKS (1926) by Archie Mayo
This comedy was directed by one of the comedians of the early slapstick films, Archie Mayo, who used the hilarious ruse of a cross-dressing husband as the pay-off for a story about a debt-ridden cad whose wife is being wooed by the captain of a yacht. The film is a fascinating document of an era when Prohibition was in effect, for it centers around a rum-runner, and also the early days of advertising, back when Sigmund Freud's nephew was applying the idea of the unconscious to the new field of advertising by appealing to their desires rather than their needs.
Finally, if you want to enjoy another great film set in the same time period as THE ARTIST, then try to the delightful SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952) -- starring Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen (in one of the best dance scenes ever), and Debbie Reynolds. Rotten Tomatoes score 100%
Jun 21POSTED BY STEVE - 4:15PM
To commemorate the availability of this year's most talked-about comedies, 21 JUMP STREET, here are some other staples in the action/comedy genre that you might like to try.
If you're a fan of Ice Cube's screaming/in-your-face brand of humor, THREE KINGS is your next step. This smart comedy tells the story of three soldiers during the Gulf War who set out in the desert in search of treasure. George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg offer fitting performances to this rich comedy that offers gunshots just as much as laughs.
One of my personal favorites is the LETHAL WEAPON franchise, available for rent or purchase. LETHAL WEAPON 2, namely, offers an incredible gun-battle finale that is balanced with the comedic relief of Joe Pesci. 21 JUMP STREET certainly pays its dues to this classic from the 1980s, since Mel Gibson and Danny Glover set the standard for the Buddy-Cop comedy.
Featuring just about every big name during the 1990s, and led by one of the hottest directors of the time, MARS ATTACKS takes on multiple genres at once to provide a zany, surreal frenzy of snark political humor and laser beams. The action sequences rival the well-timed jokes because of their cutting-edge special effects. It all combines to deliver an all-too-convincing portrayal of global domination by noisy little pseudo-beings wearing psychedelic blouses.
Jun 19POSTED BY STEVE - 12:15PM
Available July 3, 2012
Joshua Mason, played by teen heartthrob Josh Hutcherson (JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND), is a troubled 16-year-old, abandoned by an addict mother and soon faced with life challenges far beyond typical teenage angst. Upon discovering the boy's incredible gifts as an artist, Every Campbell (Alfred Molina) introduces Mason to the lucrative world of art forgery. While in Carmel, California, a town rich with artistic history, Mason builds a relationship with a voice of reason, played by Lauren Bacall (THE BIG SLEEP), who encourages the boy towards artistic integrity over criminal luxury. Paired with co-star Hayden Panettiere (FIREFLIES IN THE GARDEN), Hutcherson's performance in THE FORGER will perpetuate the actor's young career into Hollywood greatness.
Jun 18POSTED BY GERRY - 3:46PM
With the release of his latest film, PROMETHEUS, director Ridley Scott marks his return to the realm of science fiction. Not since 1982’s BLADE RUNNER has the British auteur explored the genre that first made him famous with 1979’s ALIEN. Now, with BLADE RUNNER celebrating its 30th anniversary, Scott tackles a similar theme with this year’s PROMETHEUS: the humanity of artificial intelligence. In both films, the androids have more emotional investment in life and life’s meaning than do the humans.
Arguably the most powerful moment in BLADE RUNNER occurs when android Roy Batty (Rutger Howard) stops his murderous pursuit of Deckard (Harrison Ford) and appreciates the beauty of life. “I've seen things you people wouldn't believe,” he utters. “Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain.” It’s a moment of haunting beauty delivered by a murderous machine.
In PROMETHEUS, actor Michael Fassbender brilliantly plays the android, David, who has similar moments of unexpected depth. In one exchange between David and a human aboard the ship, David asks, “Why do you think your people made me?”
His human co-hort replies, “We made ya’ cause we could.”
“Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator?”
These films, thirty years apart, express a fear and awe shared by many science fiction films about our technological ability to create androids that are more emotional and ethical than humans. Ridley Scott’s androids help us pause and marvel for a moment at our species and at our own God complexes. By having mechanical creations offer philosophical musings with such poignancy, these films invite us to wonder if perhaps we could one day create something more contemplative of existence than ourselves. Scott challenges us to define our own humanity in the presence of these existential machines. How long before we are capable of building machines like Roy or David, and what are the implications for what it means to be human?
With technology growing at a faster and faster rates than in 1982, it’s no surprise that Scott carries over the most impactful themes of BLADE RUNNER in his latest film.
Whether we’re able as a species to create human-like artificial intelligence in the coming century is yet to be seen, but here are some other great sci-fi films that leave you with a lot to ponder on the question of what it means to be human.
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968): Master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick explores humanity’s relationship with technology as astronauts struggle to survive against a cold, calculated computer named HAL in a film that spans four million years.
TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991): Sarah and John Connor battle against an impending war between man and machine with the aid of a time-travelling cyborg assassin while in the crosshairs of another.
TRANSCENDENT MAN (2009): A documentary looking at Inventor, author and futurist Raymond Kurzwiel and his theory that, sometime in the 21st century, genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics will fuse and result in the creation of a human-machine civilization and create a sort of utopian society.
PLUG & PRAY (2010): A German documentary that delves into the moral questions, general ethics and potential problems of artificial intelligence that also features TRANSCENDENT MAN’s Raymond Kurzweil.
THE IRON GIANT (1999): In this animated film from director Brad Bird, a young boy befriends an intergalactic robot struggling with amnesia who manages to display acts of humor, caring and self-sacrifice that shame many of the movie’s human characters.
THE MATRIX (1998), THE MATRIX RELOADED (2003), THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS (2003): In a world controlled and overtaken by machines, a small group of freedom fighters struggle to recapture the planet and the consciousness of its organic inhabitants.
Jun 11POSTED BY KATIE - 3:55PM
Now you can rent or buy films from Film Fresh on our new Android 4.0 film store application. (It’s automatically loaded on a featured application in Motorola’s latest MotoPack, but anyone with an Android 4.0 tablet can download the app from Google Play.)
Tablets are predicted to be a top choice for Father’s Day gifts, so if you’re giving Dad an Android tablet, make sure he’s got something great from Film Fresh to watch! Here’s the list of films that Steve, our summer intern, made for his father.
If tablets don’t fit your Dad’s style, you can think about getting him a wireless Blu-ray player or Internet-connected TV featuring Film Fresh. Here’s a list of the devices that currently carry a Film Fresh store.
Jun 11POSTED BY STEVE - 3:07PM
Happy Father’s Day! I couldn’t afford the greens fees, so how about we watch a film together Sunday? What better way to celebrate this momentous holiday than to watch some of your favorite classics with your bothersome little kids? (I promise we’ll be quiet!) I made this list just for you of some great Father’s Day films, so pick one out and I’ll buy it on Film Fresh’s store for our Internet-connected TV in the living room, like how we used to watch the Harry Potter films when I was little. Time to throw the popcorn in the microwave!
FATHER OF THE BRIDE
Ain’t nothin’ better than the original, right? While your oldest daughter’s wedding may have gone a little smoother than this one, the film masterfully captures the awkward and comical interactions between family and soon-to-be in-laws. After all, it takes more than a forgiving checkbook to make your princess’ big day truly shine. All’s well in love and chaos!
ON GOLDEN POND
Fatherhood is not always enjoyable for everyone involved. Perhaps the Fondas knew this better than anyone, since the father-daughter relationship depicted in the film is known to mimic the off-screen relationship between Jane and her father, Henry. While spending a summer in New England, it’s hard not to appreciate the company of family.
NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION
The start of a wonderful franchise of films that help explain your own groans and grunts during our family outings, Dad. As shown in the film, time spent on the road is a very volatile environment for family members. I remember our long trips when my sisters and I would fight for space in the back seat, just like Rusty and Audrey. Luckily, films like these help me look back on those times fondly.
Fatherhood can take many different shapes and sizes. While you never taught me how to hang retractable saliva from my mouth, I can certainly recall plenty of instilled habits that did not earn the approval of Mom. Adam Sandler’s early comedies defined my childhood, and this film depicts his transition into maturity and adulthood, just as I am currently avoiding. Luckily, we both have father figures to rely on.
SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE
One of your favorites! Cleverly disguised as a romantic comedy, this film reminds us that sometimes, Dad, your kids know best. Otherwise, Tom Hanks’ character would be dating his annoying co-worker, just like you’d still be wearing your leather jacket from the Seventies...
Hope these wonderful titles provide you with an equally enjoyable Father’s Day. After all, it’s your special day!
Love, Your Favorite Son,
P.S. Here are some newer titles you might want to check out!
A THOUSAND YEARS OF GOOD PRAYERS
THE SQUID AND THE WHALE
WORLD'S GREATEST DAD
Jun 4POSTED BY KATIE - 5:34PM
We've got some films for the girls, too, including the fun and moving SAVING FACE, about a NYC lawyer who's falling in love just as her pregnant, widowed mom comes to live with her. The 90s classic, THE INCREDIBLY TRUE ADVENTURES OF 2 GIRLS IN LOVE, is a sweet look at two high school students who discover that love transcends differences. LOVING ANNABELLE is a classic Catholic-boarding-schoolgirl-falls-in-love-with-teacher story made by Katherine Brooks (whose newest doc is in festivals right now). THE GYMNAST wraps a love affair within Cirque Du Soleil style aerial acts, a huge award winner on the festival circuit. The Iranian film about two young women who fall for each other in Tehran is CIRCUMSTANCE.
LGBT films tend to be carried by specialty distributors TLA and Wolfe Video, who also support the many queer film festivals around the country. Indie distributor Cinetic also offers some gay themed films, two featured in our Gay World Films blog are from Cinetic (Peru's UNDERTOW and Poland's SUICIDE ROOM), including the new comedy, AN ORDINARY FAMILY, about a family vacation -- just in time for summer vacations.
Some mainstream studios that we carry also have some gay-themed films that are currently in window, including Lionsgate's I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS, the quirky comedy about Jim Carrey's character falling in love with Ewan McGregor's. Also from Lionsgate is CHUCK & BUCK, an milestone film in early indie cinema, an even more quirky comedy about an odd but slightly endearing weirdo who happens to be gay and still in love with his long-lost high school pal, now a straight guy with a girlfriend. HAPPY ENDINGS is a polymorphously perverse comedy from Don Roos. Sony Pictures Classics, the indie wing of Sony, offers QUINCEANERA, a story of a Latina teen and her gay cousin as they each explore their adolescent identity and sexuality.
June is Gay Pride Month. Make the most of it!
Jun 4POSTED BY KATIE - 4:09PM
Filmmaker JC Calciano is an old-fashioned romantic, a sharp businessman, and a film visionary who makes fun romantic comedies on a low budget for gay audiences. In just two years, JC has shown his two hits, IS IT JUST ME? (2010) and eCUPID (2011), at over 100 LGBT film festivals, and he’s the director, producer, and writer of the popular web series, “Steam Room Stories.” JC stopped by Film Fresh this week to talk about his films.
IS IT JUST ME? (2010) is a sweet love story inspired by Hollywood romantic comedies. "I wanted to write a Jennifer Aniston movie but for guys," JC told NBC Los Angeles. "I like gay films, and I love romantic comedies," he explained, "I wanted to make a film that reflected my community in a positive way. My goal was to make a film we can show our family and friends and say, 'Look, this is how we are, this is how we live, and this is how we love'."
With the tremendous success of that first film -- it won the Rainbow Award at the Honolulu Film Festival and Best Picture at the Detroit Film Festival -- JC was quick to come out with his second feature, eCUPID, another love story about a gay couple with the seven-year-itch that is fueled by an app called “eCupid.”
eCUPID is “inspired by the classic Frank Capra film IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946),” JC told us, in which a ghost named Clarence comes into a young man’s life (Jimmie Stewart) and helps him realize how much he has to gain from love. In Calciano’s film, the instigator is an internet app called “eCupid” who helps a bored boyfriend (Houston Rhines) leave his significant other behind and hook up with dream dates, only to realize through the experience -- and the wisdom of his waitress (Morgan Fairchild) -- what is truly important to him.
JC built his own free “eCupid” app to help promote the film, a kind of fantasy version of a dating app. In his version, Morgan Fairchild tells you if you've found true love.
With this second film, JC wanted to direct with a “studio sensibility,” bringing higher production values to the sentiment that made his first film so popular. IS IT JUST ME? was made for just $40,000, shot in only 12 days in JC’s West Hollywood apartment and neighborhood, where he also makes his highly popular “Steam Room Stories,” which have had over 7.5 million views. Indie filmmakers can learn a lot from JC’s understanding of his audience, the festival circuit, and the Internet. “LGBT film festivals are the most important places that our community finds new films -- we don’t rely on mainstream rating services or media for film discovery.” Calciano’s goal is to keep providing new work for the festivals and Internet-based audiences.
JC is especially interested in what an independently operated site like Film Fresh offers to the LGBT community. He told us: “Film Fresh has a nice variety of GLBT films … some wonderful favorites of mine as well as some ‘must see’ films that are on my cue. Here's a list of films I really enjoy and/or am planning on seeing.”
- STRAPPED (2010) – A young hustler meets a tender client then gets lost in his maze-like apartment complex, meeting a range of characters and facing his own emotions in this drama.
- REDWOODS (2009) – When gay partners have stayed together only for the sake of their son, it’s a welcome change to discover new love when a stranger comes to the Guerneville countryside.
- HOLLYWOOD JE T’AIME (2009) – a heartbroken gay Parisian comes to Los Angeles on vacation to forget the past and look forward to the future, with the help of a sex worker, a drag queen, and pot supplier.
- LATTER DAYS (2003) – A Mormon missionary going door-to-door in Los Angeles meets a West Hollywood party boy going from man-to-man in this romantic comedy. Mitt Romney would rather raise taxes than see this film!
- MAKE THE YULETIDE GAY (2009) – Christmas is when gay college students go home to the closet, that is, unless it’s a comedy film in which a boyfriend follows his guy to the Midwest. This film is funny even when it’s not Christmas.
- THE TRIP (2002) – This classic romantic comedy begins in 1973 when a gay activist meets a closeted Republican and they’re on-again off-again throughout the gay civil rights 1980s when a road trip brings them back together.
JC started in the industry after graduating from NYU film school and becoming an Associate Producer on MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, and Head of Production for Tom Cruise’s Cruise/Wagner Productions at Paramount Pictures, then moved on to produce indie films and reality TV series, here in the U.S. and in Dubai, before creating his two feature films and web series.
Jun 4POSTED BY KATIE - 3:42PM
The LGBT community knows that acceptance and opportunity can vary tremendously from state to state, let alone from country to country. Seeing how lesbians and gays live and love in other nations is always worthwhile, so we selected five foreign films worth watching.
CIRCUMSTANCE (2011) – Iran – Two young women explore Tehran’s underground scene and their feelings for one another in this winner of Sundance Film Festival’s 2011 Audience Award for Dramatic Film.
UNDERTOW (2009) – Peru – Set in a small, traditional fishing village, a married man with a new child finds himself in a bind between staying in the closet or helping the man he loves. Winner of Sundance Film Festival’s 2010 Grand Jury Prize.
RAGING SUN, RAGING SKY (2009) – Mexico – Winner of Beast Feature Film in the 2009 Berlin International Film Festival, this film reveals that the bond between two young men is more than sexual, but also one of soul and spirit.
SUICIDE ROOM (2011) – Poland – An adolescent’s world of privilege disappears once he kisses a boy and the video goes viral; he hangs out in an Internet “suicide room” in sequences creatively expressed in anime. Nominated for Best Feature at 2011 Berlin International Film Festival.
KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN (1985) – Brazil (this film is in English) -- This classic film set in a Brazilian prison mixes politics, the fantasies of filmmaking, and the growing love between a gay and straight man. Stars Raul Julia and William Hurt, who won an Oscar and Cannes award for Best Actor in 1986.
May 22POSTED BY ANNE - 7:40AM
For the last decade, we as moviegoers have witnessed something magical onscreen -- an evolving coming-of-age story and fantastical epic. Through eight films and nine years, we’ve watched Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter grow from boy to man. As Harry grew, the tests he faced loomed larger, and a series initially dismissed as “just for kids” explored adult themes of self-discovery and the challenges of growing up.
With awed wonder, we entered the world of Hogwarts in 2001 with the first film, THE SORCERER’S STONE. This and its 2002 sequel, THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, showed us a fanciful world where the child Harry Potter and his friends Hermione and Ron could overcome evil with nothing but courage. This changed in the under-appreciated, gothic PRISONER OF AZKABAN, which sounded the death-knell for Harry’s childhood. Starting from this point, Harry was forced through the realities of responsibility and disappointment that arise in adolescence and adulthood.
As Harry entered his teen years, he would have to struggle with questions of identity many teens face. Once the evil Lord Voldemort returned in THE GOBLET OF FIRE in 2005, Harry began battling with the darker part of his nature. The personal journey of THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (2007) reached its apex when Harry was possessed by Voldemort and had to confront his insecurities. Ultimately, Harry found self-worth in his love for friends and family. This steeled him for his later challenges, but his journey wasn’t finished yet.
Unfortunately, the road to adulthood does not end with one personal revelation, but instead the discovery of one’s place in the world. Through THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE in 2009 and into the two-part conclusion of THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, the scope of the story grew larger as Harry moved from his personal battle to a larger war for his friends and home. In the end, though we love the magic of “Harry Potter,” what draws us to his story is the knowledge that his struggles are our own writ large. We may never battle a dragon, but we know the uncertainty of adolescence and the feeling of elation with each step towards self-discovery we make. Harry Potter thus serves as an empathetic parable for children and a reminder for adults of just how scary growing up can be, trolls included.