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Archive: April, 2013

POSTED: Friday, April 5, 2013, 9:14 AM

I met Roger Ebert only once, in 1995, a little more than a year after I'd begun writing about television for the Daily News.

I've been quoting him ever since.

Because though what I wrote after the Chicago Sun-Times movie critic  and his Chicago Tribune counterpart Gene Siskel passed through Philadelphia on a promotional tour for "Siskel & Ebert" didn't include it, what I remember most from that luncheon audience (which included other reporters) was Ebert insisting that no critic would spend two hours in the dark hoping for a movie to be bad.

POSTED: Thursday, April 4, 2013, 1:53 PM
Filed Under: Movies

Is it May 10, yet?

Warner Brothers dropped its new trailer for the Great Gatsby on Thursday, and it's 3 minutes of roaring, stunning and action-packed, theatrical goodness.

The Baz Luhrmann-directed film starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the tortured-yet-enigmatic Jay Gatsby, and Carey Mulligan as the beautiful, self-absorbed Daisy Buchanan, is one of the most anticipated films of 2013. The new trailer is set to the tune of Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black" covered by Beyonce and Andre 3000. Lana Del Rey and Florence Welch also chime (er more like belt) in. For more on the soundtrack, click here.

POSTED: Thursday, April 4, 2013, 5:43 PM

Much will be written in the next few days about Roger Ebert, the prolific, passionate and perceptive film critic, author and TV personality who passed away Thursday, age 70, after a long running and defiant battle with cancer. I picked up Ebert’s collection, The Great Movies II, just to revisit the Pulitzer Prize-winner’s sharp, smart, never highfalutin but always inspiring writing, and found this absolutely wonderful, and poignant passage in his entry on the Three Colors Trilogy, by Krzysztof Kieslowski: (The boldface below is mine.)

“Because  he made most of his early work in Poland during the Cold War, and because his masterpiece, The Decalogue, consists of ten one-hour films that do not fit easily on the multiplex conveyor belt, he has still not received the kind of recognition given those he deserves to be named with, like Bergman, Ozu, Fellini, Keaton and Bunuel. He is one of the filmmakers I would turn to for consolation if I learned I was dying, or to laugh with on finding I would live after all.

 “He often deals with illness, loss, and death, but deep pools of humor float beneath the surfaces of his films. There is a sequence in White (1994) where his hero, a Polish hairdresser, is so desperately homesick in Paris that he arranges to be sent back to Warsaw curled up inside a suitcase. His friend at the other end watches the airport conveyor belt with horror. The bag is not there. It has been stolen by thieves who break the lock, find only the little man, beat him savagely, and throw him on a rubbish heap. Staggering to his feet, he looks around, bloody but triumphant, and cries `Home at last!’”

POSTED: Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 11:15 AM
West Indian lilacs, anyone? Laura Dern and Sam Neill worry over a wheezy triceratops in "Jurassic Park."

Going back to turn Steven Spielberg’s 20-year-old dino thriller Jurassic Park into a 3D spectacle (required to watch with, yes, 3D spectacles) is almost as egregious an error, it turns out, as going back and bringing tyrannosaurs and triceratops to life again in the first place.

You’re not going to lose a limb like poor chain-smoking computer nerd Samuel L. Jackson does in the movie, but you may lose your patience while you’re sitting there in the dark. Remember the seamless way those gallimimuses (or is that gallimimi?) stampeded across the verdant Isla Nublar field, almost mowing Sam Neill  and those two kids down? Remember when that same trio is perched in the high branches of some Cretaceous-era tree, gazing out on a horizon dotted with a herd of giant grazing brachiosaurs? Visual effects technology was downright primitive back in 1993, but the CG artists, model artists, matte painters and digital renderers – Spielberg’s whole talented crew -- managed to create the illusion that Richard Attenborough’s genetically engineered theme park off of the coast of Costa Rica was real.

Ironically, Jurassic Park’s 3D conversion actually undermines that illusion, and compromises the experience. When Spielberg and his great cinematographer Dean Cundey shot the film in Hawaii back in 1992, they weren’t thinking 3D, and so foreground and background, actors, props and animatronic beasties were framed and shot with a traditional 2D viewing in mind. And, of course, with the dino visual effects in mind – how to make those raptors and tyrannosaurs look as if they’re really commingling with Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Wayne Knight and all. But the “depth mapping” and depth-image rendering required for a 3D conversion (which typically runs $10 million to $15 million) exaggerates and re-emphasizes the way those scenes are composed. Now , when that giant T Rex bears down on the two Jurassic Park Jeeps and their scared-silly passengers, the 3D retrofit makes the scene look phonier, cheesier, almost like 1950s sci-fi. The fakery becomes more apparent.

POSTED: Tuesday, April 2, 2013, 1:58 PM
Filed Under: Movies

When you grow up watching Hindi-language movies from India, you quickly begin to develop strong feelings for the genre, better known as Bollywood. In my case, it’s nothing but love.

Give me a sappy three-hour long escapist film any day. Bollywood has everything I want from a film – which is to say, nothing serious. Over-the-top, melodramatic scenes devolving into song-and-dance routines that put Glee to shame? Check. Beautiful heroines and dashing heroes with dance moves designed to make you swoon? Check. A dazzling array of fashionable saris and other heavily-sequined garments? Check.

POSTED: Monday, April 1, 2013, 4:54 PM

“So, you wanna dance?” Valley Girl, the ultimate ‘80s teen movie – starring Nicolas Cage as a Hollywood punk and Deborah Foreman as the suburban high schooler he falls for (and vice versa) (and whatever happened to Foreman, anyway?) -- gets a much-deserved screening Tuesday night, April 2, at PhilaMOCA.

The powerhouse local band Sweatheart  (“"If Sparks, The Bangles, and Blue Oyster Cult made a smoothie, it might smell a little like Sweatheart" - Naeem Juwan) will rip through selected tracks from the film’s time-capsule soundtrack: songs by The Flirts, Modern English, The Psychedelic Furs and Sparks (“Angst in My Pants,” yes! ) and more. Valley Girl, PhilaMOCA (Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art, 531 N. 12th Street.  8 p.m. for the film, 9:30 p.m. for the music. Info:

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Consider our Movies blog your essential guide to new movies and classics, interviews with filmmakers and stars, news and views on the latest screen trends, reviews and the occasional rant.

Nick Vadala Staff Writer
Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
Gary Thompson Daily News Film Critic
Molly Eichel Staff Writer
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