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On the Silver Screen




ON THE SILVER SCREEN: SUPERMAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA

By Brian Lafferty

 

February 3, 2012 (San Diego) – In 1999, The Blair Witch Project popularized the “found footage” genre. Thirteen years later its influence has been felt in movies from as close to home as here (Cloverfield) to as far away as Norway (Trollhunters). Chronicle is a noble attempt at the genre, but the gimmick here is unnecessary. It severely undermines what could have been a good movie.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: TOUCH OF "GREY"

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 27, 2012 (San Diego) – Around this time last year, Sanctum hit theaters. Set in a series of frigid, but gorgeous underwater caves, it boasted beautiful cinematography. Unfortunately, it was a dopey survival movie whose sole purpose was to kill off its cardboard characters in gruesome ways.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 23, 2012 (San Diego) – The last few years have been rough on a lot of people. People have lost their jobs, they don’t know how to support themselves and their families, and I’m sure there are those who, like George Bailey, wish they had never been born.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: THE CHANGE-UP (DVD)

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 23, 2012 (San Diego) – The Change-Up is like murder…it’s indefensible. It is the worst “comedy” of 2011 and it would have been the worst movie if Zack Snyder didn’t make the equally misogynist, but more self-indulgent, Sucker Punch. It starts out with the worst scene of the film – Jason Bateman getting a mouthful of poop – and it only gets worse from there.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: HAVE A NICE FLIGHT

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 20, 2012 (San Diego) – If you’re looking for a serious, authentic, and realistic portrayal of the Tuskegee Airmen, Red Tails isn’t it. Instead, you’ll get a fully romanticized, pure escapist account that isn’t flawless but is entertaining. I embraced the film’s adventurism, machismo, and old-fashioned approach. Given that Red Tails is George Lucas’ most recent pet project, it’s unreasonable to expect realism and grit.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: SMUGGLING ACT

By Brian Lafferty

January 13, 2012 (San Diego) – Contraband is a goofy mess. It inspires laughter at the wrong moments and reticent admiration for its actors, who display a work ethic not unlike the horse in Animal Farm, but are deserving of a better film. Part of me wants to tell you to see it for its awfulness, but I can’t. Time and money are precious. Maybe it when it comes out on home video.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: ANOTHER EARTH (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 11, 2012 (San Diego) – Another Earth was the first of two films released in 2011 about the discovery of another planet; the other one was Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. Both films delve deep into the lives of their troubled characters and contain some of 2011’s best performances. I liked Another Earth just slightly better because it uses the other planet to show how the discovery of Earth 2, and its possible parallels to this Earth, affects the lives of its characters.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: ALEX IN WONDERLAND (DVD)

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 11, 2012 (San Diego) – After I watched Alex in Wonderland, available from the Warner Archive Collection, I remembered an interview I saw that featured independent director Henry Jaglom. At one point he said Steven Spielberg and George Lucas ruined the movies for him because after the massive box office successes of Jaws and Star Wars, it became about events, distraction, mass entertainment, and mechanization.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: DEMON SEED (DVD)

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 3, 2011 (San Diego) – Demon Seed, available from the Warner Archive Collection and adapted from a novel by Dean Koontz, may borrow from Rosemary’s Baby and 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I still felt like I hadn’t seen anything like it before.

 

Demon Seed starts out ten minutes too slow in showing the separation between Susan Harris (Julie Christie) and her husband Alex (Fritz Weaver). Their daughter died of leukemia and Alex has spent hundreds of hours tirelessly working on Proteus 4, an artificial brain. As a result, the two become estranged and Alex temporarily moves out for a few months, leaving Susan home alone.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: BRIDESMAIDS (DVD)

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 3, 2012 (San Diego) – I pop in the Bridesmaids DVD. I’m ready to laugh. I wait. Fifteen minutes pass. Then thirty. No laughter. Then a whole hour passes by, but not a single chuckle was uttered. Towards the end of the movie it was so quiet in the house that I distinctly thought I heard the sound of crickets chirping outside.

 

I didn’t laugh once during the two hour running time. I couldn’t even smile. What made it irksome was that every single joke had the potential for a laugh but the writers and actors find some way to foul it up.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "MISSION" ACCOMPLISHED

 

By Brian Lafferty

December 21, 2011 (San Diego) – Many people I know would be hard-pressed to name their favorite TV show. For me, it’s easy. Mission: Impossible is my all-time favorite TV show. There’s something about the creativity in each mission’s execution. Even though everybody knows that the team will succeed, that doesn’t mean it lacks suspense.

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT

By Brian Lafferty

November 11, 2011 (San Diego) – Apparently every generation brings a disaster movie in which an asteroid, meteor, or comet is about to strike the Earth. There was Meteor in 1979. My generation had not one but two such movies in 1998. They were Michael Bay’s Armageddon and Mimi Leder’s Deep Impact. I don’t think I need to tell you which was more popular among my classmates.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: UNCONSCIENTIOUS DIRECTOR

By Brian Lafferty

 

November 11, 2011 (San Diego) – As a critic it’s easy to look at a film and say something like, “It would have been better if they did this.” The flaw of such logic is that there’s no guarantee that the replacements or additions would be any better than what made it onto the screen. Nor would excising a scene or plot necessarily benefit the movie.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: ATTACK THE BLOCK (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 

November 8, 2011 (San Diego) – Attack the Block is made in the same spirit as the early 1980s work of Steven Spielberg. Like E.T., it centers on a group of young boys who have a life-changing encounter with the uncanny. Like The Goonies (which was directed by Richard Donner, but everybody knows it was really Spielberg’s film) the boys in Attack the Block band together on a daring adventure to save their homes.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: THE GREEN LANTERN (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 

November 7, 2011 (San Diego) – The comic book superhero genre won’t be going away anytime soon and that’s all right with me. Thanks to Warner Bros., The Dark Knight and Watchmen rank among my most favorite theater experiences. There have been many other comic book movies that left me excited for the next installment, eager to discuss them with friends.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: DRESSED TO KILL (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 

November 7, 2011 (San Diego) – Dressed to Kill, now out on Blu-Ray, is Brian De Palma at the apex of his career’s “Hitchcock Stage.” It began with Sisters in 1973. It continued with Obsession in 1976, which was a remake of Vertigo that actually bettered Hitchcock’s alleged masterpiece (Vertigo is, to me, perhaps the most overrated film of all-time). In 1980 he wrote and directed Dressed to Kill, a mystery thriller that borrows a lot from Psycho (De Palma, in a featurette, defends himself against plagiarism accusations, arguing that Hitchcock created a specific film grammar that he merely utilized).

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: NOTHIN' BUT A GOOD "TIME"

By Brian Lafferty

 

November 4, 2011 (San Diego) – I love surprises. I drove into the parking lot where the In Time screening too place thinking that it was going to be a dime a dozen action film with incoherent stunts and poor camerawork held together by a gimmick. Over two hours later, I went home with a smile on my face.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: TALE OF THE "MIXTAPE"

By Brian Lafferty

 

October 21, 2011 (San Diego) – The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 opens by saying it “doesn’t presume to tell the whole story of the Black Power Movement.” It further states that the purpose of the film is to show how the Black Power Movement was perceived by a few Swedish filmmakers. For me, nine times out of ten the first minute can make or break a film. The first minute in this documentary establishes the treatment afforded to this volatile, polarizing, and historically significant movement.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: TOP GUN (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 

October 19, 2011 (San Diego) – I remember in elementary and middle school when the end of the month couldn’t come soon enough. The teacher would usually let us watch a movie, provided it was rated either G or PG. The first requested title was always Top Gun. It was (and still is) PG but the teacher invariably and immediately vetoed it. After having seen it years later, I’m amazed that the MPAA hasn’t upped it to PG-13.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: DONNIE DARKO (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 



October 19, 2011 (San Diego) – There’s major box office successes, the ones that rake in millions upon millions of dollars. There’s box office sleeper hits, the kind that come out of nowhere and attract lots of audiences.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: YOU CAN'T GO WEST AGAIN

 

By Brian Lafferty

 

October 14, 2011 (San Diego) – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ended on a famous freeze frame shot. It was right up there with the famous shot of Antoine Doinel looking at the camera to cap Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. The Bolivian army surrounded Butch and Sundance. They emerged from hiding, guns blazing. The movie ended on a freeze frame of the two with the sound of gunfire blasting away.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: THE "WEEKEND" OF THE AFFAIR

By Brian Lafferty

 

October 14, 2011 (San Diego) – Weekend is not to be confused with the 1967 Jean-Luc Godard film by the same name. This Weekend, a British import, is in some ways like a Henry Jaglom film in that it’s high on the dialogue meter and all about relationships. What separates Weekend from Henry Jaglom’s films are that it isn’t self-indulgent, it’s an honest portrayal of relationships, and the characters and conversations are worthy of my time and yours.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: THE PACK (DVD)

By Brian Lafferty

 

October 12, 2011 (San Diego) – The 1950s spawned a then-novel horror subgenre. Many of these movies involved everyday animals and insects attacking entire cities after being transformed into giants (usually thanks to atomic testing or laboratory experiments).

 

After years of dormancy, this subgenre made a comeback in the 1970s, only this time the animals tended to be their normal sizes. However, they were just as deadly. Films of this kind included Frogs (1972), Grizzly (1976), Day of the Animals (1977), and The Pack (1977), the latter of which is now available from the Warner Archive Collection.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: THE GOLD BRUSH

By Brian Lafferty

 

October 7, 2011 (San Diego) – The Mill and the Cross is one of the year’s most original films. That’s not something I’ve been able to say a lot this year…or last year, for that matter. It’s the first movie to the best of my knowledge that combines the art of painting with the art of filmmaking. It’s so original and unique that explaining the concept to my friends presented much difficulty. You’ll just have to take my word for it and head to the Ken Cinema.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: GROSS ANATOMY

By Brian Lafferty

 

October 7, 2011 (San Diego) – The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) is a challenging movie not just in content but also in making me think about my response to it. It’s so easy for a critic to say that he likes or dislikes a film, especially when engaging in dialogue, rather than written expression. When a movie like this comes along, it’s not so black and white.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "HAPPY, HAPPY" JOY JOY

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 30, 2011 (San Diego) – There is an old proverb that goes, “Honesty is the best policy.” As a theme it serves Happy, Happy well. It’s refreshing to see a film so honest with everything, including its characters, their relationships with each other, and the situations they encounter. Most importantly, it’s honest with itself.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: BACKWOODS IN ACTION

By Brian Lafferty

 

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is playing only at midnight tonight and Saturday night at the Ken Cinema.

 

September 30, 2011 (San Diego) – Although it wasn’t exactly a horror film, John Boorman’s Deliverance (1972) introduced a novel villain that would become a go-to baddie in the years to come. I’m talking about the bloodthirsty backwoods hillbilly, also known as the mountain man. You know the clichés. A bunch of horny young adults get stranded deep in the woods and are terrorized by a few white trash deranged hillbillies.

 

"HAPPY, HAPPY" DIRECTOR TALKS ABOUT HER DEBUT FILM

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 30, 2011 (San Diego) – Happy, Happy opens today at the Landmark Ken Cinema for a one-week run. It’s a delightful Norwegian import that is at times laugh out loud funny and other times full of drama. Anne Sewitsky helmed the movie, her first feature film. I had a brief conversation with her by phone.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: LIFE'S EPIC "MYSTERIES"

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 23, 2011 (San Diego) – A few years ago I watched the 1959 version of Ben-Hur. I sat in my seat mesmerized, so hooked that I did not take a single break during the entire three hours and forty-five minutes (which included the overture and intermission).

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: GOOD WILL HUNTING (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 17, 2011 (San Diego) – In the 1950s critics writing for the French film magazine Cahiers du Cinema came up with the Auteur Theory. Later propagated by American film critic Andrew Sarris, it stated that the director is the author of the film. It further goes on to assert that an author can leave a mark in each of his films to the point where someone can say, “That’s an Alfred Hitchcock film” or “That’s a John Ford film.”

 

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