What if we had a concert and EVERYONE came!

I don’t know what it is about Leap Day but Netflix just released a smorgasbord of concert/music/performance films and documentaries to streaming. I’m not really a music buff but here is a partial listing of what became available.

* Asia Fantasia – Live in Tokyo

* Grateful Dead – Anthem to Beauty

* Chic Live at Montreaux 2004

* Queen – Rock Montreal and Live Aid

* Ginger Baker in Africa

* Bob Marley & The Wailers – Catch a Fire

* Simply Red – Stars

* The Doors – Soundstage Performances & No One Gets Out of Here Alive

* Documentaries on Metallica – Black Album, Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell, Rush – 2112 & Moving Pictures, Fleetwood Mac – Rumors, Phil Collins – Face Value

* Alice Cooper – Live at Montreaux 2005

* Rory Gallagher – Live at Montreaux

* Sebastian Bach – Forever Wild

* Diana Krall – Live in Rio

* America – Live in Central Park

* Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks

* The Charlie Daniels Band – Volunteer Jam

* Ray Charles – Live at the Montreaux Jazz Festival

* Tina Turner – One Last Time

* Paul Simon – Graceland

* Deep Purple – Machinehead

* Jethro Tull – Live at Montreaux

* The Beatles – From Liverpool to San Francisco

* Lynyrd Skynyrd – Sweet Home Alabama

* Elton John – Someone Like Me

* ZZ Top – Live from Texas

* Jeff Healey Band – Live at Montreaux 1999

* Earth, Wind and Fire in Concert

* Out of Ireland – Hit Songs and Artists of Irish Music

* Nirvana – Nevermind

* Funk Brothers – Live in Orlando

* A Tribute to Edith Piaf

It looked like there were at least a dozen others as well so if you enjoy music there should be something there for you.

Catch a Falling Starz! Two days only!

In spite of Netflix offering Starz a reported ten time their original contract price, negotiations fell through some time ago. Speculation is that the major studios put a lot o pressure on Starz not to deal with Netflix at all. Sadly all this Starz content expires on February 29th so you have relatively little time to catch up on these gems (as chosen by Gizmodo)

Toy Story 3 – Brilliant Disney/Pixar film – easily as good as the first two but VERY intense towards the end

Tron: Legacy – Ummm it’s stylish but even Jeff Bridges and the beautiful Olivia Wilde can’t bring this to recommended status

That Thing You Do!

Elizabeth – Excellent treatise on Queen Elizabeth’s rise to power complete with court intrigues. Geoffrey Rush is a standout.

Robin Hood Men in Tights – Really not worth your time in spite of the ideal casting of Cary Elwes as Robin Hood.

Peter Pan

Scarface – The quintessential Gangster film. It’s all about honesty and respect. Extremely violent and stylish, Brian de Palma’s Miami is beautiful and scary.

Apocalypto

Hackers – A hacker movie with a very young Angelina Jolie.

JFK – Overrated but fascinating conspiracy trash about JFK with a lot of good stars.

Teen Wolf

Scream – Great slasher horror film that is filled with subversive humor.

Airheads

Twins

Tank Girl

Rumble in the Bronx

Spy Hard

Airport

The Nutty Professor

Young Frankenstein – Skip Robin Hood, this is the Mel Brooks film you should see. Loving parodies of Universal’s classic Frankenstein series.

Beetlejuice – there is still talk of a sequel being made to this quirky comedy.

Spartacus

Let Me In – an unbelievably good vampire tale.

Howl’s Moving Castle – nothing from Hayao Miyazaki should be missed.

Party Down

Ronin – an excellent old school caper film with marvelus modern sensibilities and a fantastic car chase.

The Man Without a Face

Big

Astro Boy

 

 

Martin Scorsese’s Important Films

Recently the magazine Fast Company conducted a four hour interview with the man I believe to be our greatest living director, Martin Scorsese. As noted in the article, Scorsese mentioned 85 films that influenced him. Of those 85, I was rather surprised to find that only nine are currently available on instant Netflix. Being Scorsese, the list is a little heavy on film noir but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Peeping Tom (1960) – Not rated

“A disturbed filmmaker (Carl Boehm) literally kills with his camera in this ahead-of-its-time shocker from revered British director Michael Powell. Like the same year’s Psycho, this film’s combination of voyeurism, eroticism and horror repelled some 1960 critics, but its cult reputation soared in later years. Moira Shearer (star of Powell’s The Red Shoes) makes an appearance, as does Powell himself (as Boehm’s father in flashback).”

I have previously covered (and recommended) this film. Peeping Tom was well ahead of its time and essentially ended the career of its director, Michael Powell.

Caught (1949) – Not rated

“Looking for a means to rise above her station, struggling model Leonora Eames (Barbara Bel Geddes) marries millionaire Smith Ohlrig (Robert Ryan) — a character reportedly based on Howard Hughes — but her hopes are soon dashed when she discovers his sadistic ways. Leonora tires of being a kept woman and goes to work for a kind doctor (James Mason), who wins her heart. But Smith isn’t about to let his trophy wife escape without a fight.”

The Hustler (1961) – Not rated

“Paul Newman scores as pool shark “Fast Eddie” Felson, who tours the country hustling games — even challenging reigning champion Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) — in this brooding drama that explores the synergies between good and evil, love and desperation. The film won a pair of Oscars for its cinematography and art direction, while Newman and Gleason both earned Academy Award nominations for their performances. Piper Laurie co-stars.”

Not only influential but Martin Scorsese directed the sequel to this, The Color of Money (starring Tom Cruise and Paul Newman).

I Walk Alone (1948) – Not rated

“Frankie Madison (Burt Lancaster), just out of prison, expects to pick up his bootlegging racket right where he left off. Unfortunately, his former partner, Noll Turner (Kirk Douglas), now a successful nightclub owner, has other ideas. Frankie turns to Noll’s girlfriend, torch singer Kay (Lizabeth Scott), and hatches a scheme to bring down Big Business for good. Can Frankie’s Prohibition-era strong-arm tactics get the job done?”

Midnight Cowboy (1969) – Rated R

“To earn cash as a freelance sex stud and work toward his dream of becoming a kept man, hayseed hustler Joe Buck heads to New York City, where an improbable friendship blossoms when he meets seedy con man Ratso Rizzo.”

One, Two, Three (1961)

“Director Billy Wilder’s Cold War farce comes off at a breakneck pace that will leave your head spinning. C.J. McNamara (James Cagney) is a Coca-Cola executive who travels to Berlin to promote the product on the other side of the Iron Curtain. But he soon learns that his real job is baby-sitting his boss’s teenage daughter, Scarlett (Pamela Tiffin), who has secretly married volatile Communist Otto Piffl (Horst Bucholz).”

Senso (Livia) (1954) – Not rated

“Italian Countess Livia Serpieri (Alida Valli), whose family leads an underground resistance during the Austrian occupation of Italy, risks her marriage, family, friends and political standing when she gives in to her lust for Austrian Lt. Franz Mahler (Farley Granger). Set in the late 19th century, director Luchino Visconti’s luxurious, emotionally charged film is an adaptation of Camillo Boito’s novella Senso”

The Third Man (1949) – Not rated

“After arriving in post-World War II Vienna, unemployed pulp novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) learns that his friend Harry (Orson Welles) has died in an accident. Compelled to investigate the death, Holly slowly uncovers startling revelations about Harry’s life. Based on a novel by Graham Greene, this classic film noir thriller earned an Academy Award nomination for director Carol Reed and won an Oscar for Best Cinematography.”

The Trial (Le Proces) (1962) – Not rated

“Director Orson Welles’s brilliant adaptation of Franz Kafka’s existential novel casts Anthony Perkins as Josef K, a bank clerk who finds himself at the mercy of a powerful and bizarre judicial system when he’s arrested for an unnamed crime. In his efforts to exonerate himself, the bewildered Josef becomes ensnared in a ponderous maze of bureaucratic camouflage and faceless courtrooms. Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider and Elsa Martinelli co-star.”

Animation update – Archer season 2 and Futurama volume 6

My daughter will enjoy knowing that the second season of Archer is now available on instant Netflix. We have to watch animation during the day as my wife dislikes or is offended by just about all the major shows (South Park, Family Guy, American Dad, even The Simpsons).

Archer (2010) – TV-MA

“Sophisticated spy Archer may have the coolest gadgets, but he still has issues when it comes to dealing with his boss — who also happens to be his mother — in this wicked animated spoof of spy flicks and the sex-crazed agents who populate them.”

This is a silly show. Archer does a better job of lampooning spy movies than American Dad. It has a lot of purposely racy content so it is easy to be offended by it but it does not go out of its way to offend a la South Park. While much of it is lowbrow humor, there are a lot of amusing references to The Manchurian Candidate, Dial M for Murder, The Hindenberg (the movie), John Le Carre’s novels and more.

Futurama (1999-2011) – Rated TV-PG

“Pizza boy Philip J. Fry awakens in the 31st century after 1,000 years of cryogenic preservation in this animated series. After he gets a job at an interplanetary delivery service, Fry embarks on ridiculous escapades to make sense of his predicament.”

Just as silly but much less offensive, Matt Groening’s Futurama continues strong despite being cancelled quite a while ago. Volume six of Futurama has just been released on instant Netflix and I’m sure it does just as good a job at skewering current events and science fiction tropes as the previous five seasons did.

Hammer Time – Wake Wood

I love old Hammer horror movies. In honor of the new Hammer’s release of The Woman in Black with Daniel Radcliffe, I thought I would take a look at some of what the new Hammer has put out. Wake Wood is currently available on instant Netflix.

Wake Wood (2011) – Rated R

“After losing their only child, Alice, in a vicious dog attack, two grieving parents relocate to a small town where — to their horror and fascination — they discover a pagan ritual that will grant them three more days with their deceased daughter. Hoping to allay their sorrow, at least temporarily, the couple decides to go through with the rite, but the larger question remains, what happens after the three days have passed?”

Strangely even though this was produced by the new Hammer studios, the opening credits list Exclusive Film Distribution, The Irish Film Board, Vertigo Films, Solid Entertainment, Film I Skane and Fantastic Films but not Hammer. Thinking that I had erred I checked imdb and Hammer is indeed a producer but apparently this is a very mixed bag production.

Aiden Gillen and Eva Birthistle play the grieving parents. Aiden hasn’t hit it big yet but you’re likely to recognize him as Tommy Carcetti from The Wire or more recently as Littlefinger on Game of Thrones. Eva is more often seen in BBC productions like The Last Enemy, The State Within, and Waking the Dead. Both are very likeable and engaging as they try to put their lives back together in a new town following the tragic death of their daughter.

Veteran character actor Timothy Spall (Wormtail to you Harry Potter fans) is a lot of fun as Arthur, the village patriarch. Movies like this often hinge on whether the child actor is cute/capable (Dakota Fanning) or annoying/wooden (Jake Lloyd). It also helps if the kid is a little creepy. Ella Connolly does a fine job as the doomed Alice.

While Wake Wood is an obvious re-imagining of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, I really liked the different direction the script takes off in. Brendan McCarthy and director David Keating adapted the screenplay from McCarthy’s story.

The atmosphere is quite good and, even though it is not a period setting, is somewhat reminiscent of old Hammer films. The action sequences are not particularly well done and the dog attack is rather unconvincing but the acting, story, and atmosphere add up to a recommendation. That said the movie is a bit slow-moving and there are a few gory bits.

People Watch: Brian Gleason, son of wonderful actor Brendan Gleason, plays Martin O’Shea.

Hammer Time – Let Me In

I love old Hammer horror movies. In honor of the new Hammer’s release of The Woman in Black with Daniel Radcliffe, I thought I would take a look at some of what the new Hammer has put out. Let Me In is currently available on instant Netflix BUT it expires on the 29th.

Let Me In (2010) – Rated R

“When 12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) befriends his mysterious next-door neighbor, Abby (Chloe Moretz), the two outcasts form a tight-knit bond that gives Owen the courage to stand up to school bullies. But he slowly begins to suspect his new friend has a secret. Matt Reeves directs this uncommon coming-of-age thriller based on the award-winning Swedish film Let the Right One In. Richard Jenkins co-stars.”

“Just so you know I can’t be your friend”

2008’s Let the Right One In was a wonderful breath of fresh air for the increasingly stale vampire genre. This Swedish film, brilliantly directed by Tomas Alfredson, proved that vampire stories still had some teeth. The story of a bullied young boy encountering a vampire was told on a very adult level and avoided many of the adolescent wish-fulfillment tropes. Tomas Alfredson went on to direct the equally brilliant adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy so I’m very much looking forward to anything he does next (Smiley’s People perhaps?).

Part of what made Let the Right One In so riveting was the oppressively dreary winter landscape. Why then would we need an English language remake set in New Mexico in the 80s? Not only would they have to find a good child actor to play the young boy but they would need another to play the vampire. It is fairly easy to find good adult actors – good child actors are hard to come by. All of this would seem to point to disaster or at least something sub-par.

Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) adapted the Swedish screenplay and book from John Ajvide Lindqvist and kept what worked (the relationship between the two young leads, the caretaker role) and jettisoned things that would be foreign to Americans (the Swedish blockhouses, omnipresent winter). His casting was brilliant.

Chloe Grace Moretz is fantastic as Abby here. This is her best role yet – even exceeding her star turn as Hit Girl in Kick-Ass. She has a real presence and is quite haunting. Matching her scene for scene is Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen, last seen as Boy in The Road. The two of them really sell the unusual bond that develops between them. Kodi Smit-McPhee also sells the bullying his character receives. Those are junior high flashbacks I didn’t need.

While all the other actors run a distant second here, Richard Jenkins is excellent as “The Father” and really stands out in his brief role. Elias Koteas is always welcome but does not really have much to do here as a policeman. Cara Buono is fine as Owen’s mother. The vast bulk of the movie rests on the shoulders of the two leads and the child actors carry it well.

80s atmosphere abounds. Obviously they have a nice soundtrack featuring I Think I’m Turning Japanese, Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?, some David Bowie and more. Reagan is glimpsed on the television, station wagons are a vehicle of choice and Now & Laters and a Rubik’s Cube are actually integral to the plot. Matt Reeves soaks the entire movie in the 80s without it seeming forced.

While I have a lot of praise for Let Me In, the Swedish original Let the Right One In is the better film but only by a little bit. The problem is that you do have to read subtitles on Let the Right One In. If you want to catch Let Me In do so quickly as the Starz film expires on leap day. If you miss it then go catch Let the Right One In as it is still available on instant Netflix.

Netflix, The Weinstein Company, and The Artist

With their deal with Starz expiring soon, Netflix needs a content boost. Today they announced a major deal with the Weinstein Company for a multi-year slate of foreign language and documentary films.

No date yet but The Artist, nominated for ten Academy Awards, will be making its pay TV debut exclusively on instant Netflix. The Best Documentary nominated Undefeated will also make its debut Exclusively on instant Netflix.

The keys to much of the deal are exclusivity (so you won’t be watching these on Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc.) and that films would be viewable within a year of their theatrical release. Other titles included are the French World War II film – Sarah’s Key, the French blockbuster The Intouchables, Madonna’s W.E., the documentary Bully and the Shakespeare adaptation Coriolanus from Ralph Fiennes.

The extra content is nice and classy but Netflix needs a lot more meat and potatoes to replace the Starz content.

The 84th Academy Awards & I aka Oscar and the Grouch

My wife and I love the Academy Awards. Unfortunately last year’s ceremonies were just awful. How could you watch and not wonder what James Franco was on? Anne Hathaway is a cute young lady but not really a good host. I’m also having trouble picturing her as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises but I would not have believed that Heath Ledger would have made a better Joker than Jack Nicholson. Still we mostly watch the Oscars for the red carpet and this year is no exception – especially as we’ve seen only a handful of the nominees.

Billy Crystal is a nice safe host and I’m sure this Sunday’s proceedings will go fine. My favorite recent host was Hugh Jackman and I’d really like to see him reprise his role. Barring that I would love to see Neil Patrick Harris suit up as host.

This year Carolina Cinemas is having a wonderful Academy Awards marathon in their cinema lounge – all FREE FREE FREE! My wife has graciously agreed to join me for this butt-numb-a-thon. There is also no need to leave during the day as Carolina Cinemas has a full lineup of sandwiches, pizza, and other munchies as well as beer and wine for those so inclined.

12:30 – Midnight in Paris (nominated for Best Picture, Best Director – Woody Allen, Best Writing – Woody Allen and Best Achievement in Art Direction)

2 – Moneyball (nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor – Brad Pitt, Best Supporting Actor – Jonah Hill, Best Writing, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing

4 – The King’s Speech (last year’s Best Picture winner)

630 – Red Carpet Interviews

7 – The Oscars

I have to confess that it is a good thing that we’ll be seeing Moneyball and Midnight in Paris as I’ve seen almost none of the nominees this year. For that matter I have to confess to not having seen The King’s Speech yet. I did get to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and my wife saw The Help aka Rich White People Solve Racism.

A Little Idle Talk of This and That

Dragon Tattoo Trilogy Extended Edition (2010) – Not rated

“The Dragon Tattoo Trilogy contains more than two hours of additional footage not seen in the theatrical versions of the original Swedish films.Amassing a total of 9 hours of story content and presented in 6 parts, this complete version of the international hit series restores notable characters and subplots from Stieg Larsson’s best-selling novels.”

For those mystery lovers with a lot of time on their hands, the extended versions of all three of the Stieg Larsson novels are now available on instant Netflix. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie-length versions and I’m not sure when I’ll have time to catch these extended ones. Strong warning on content if you haven’t seen these as there is much disturbing material present.

* Warner has increased their delay on new release titles being available for rental on Netflix to a whopping 56 days.

* Not surprisingly Disney is considering adopting the delay of new releases to Netflix (and presumably Redbox) that Warner, Fox, and Universal have implemented.

* Crackle and CinemaNow are now available on the Xbox 360. Crackle is a FREE movie service – uncut movies with commercials. There have some offerings that Netflix lacks. CinemaNow is another pay for rental ($3-4) or purchase ($16) movie venue. I’m not sure where the appeal is as most movies can be purchased as physical media (i.e. something you actually own as opposed to something you think you own) for far less.

* Amazon, which struggles mightily trying to bridge the gap between a Netflix type service and a pay as you go Blockbuster, is expected to announce a deal with Viacom shortly. They still have a lot of catching up to do content-wise to compete with Netflix. I will admit that Amazon is where I break my “no a la carte” digital rule. I buy every new episode of Walking Dead as it becomes available (since we ditched cable).

* Redbox is teaming up with Verizon to work on a new streaming movie service. I really think that except for niche markets, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon have the subscription video sewn up. Redbox also snapped up all those Blockbuster kiosks – 35,000 of them – from NCR so if you thought Redbox was ubiquitous before…

ActionFest 2012 and Carolina Cinemas

It’s only mid-February but Carolina Cinemas has announced their March line-up.

First up: Advance tickets have gone on sale for ActionFest 2012. They are $75.

Priority entry to ActionFest screenings, panels, and parties, as well as the Awards Ceremony and the Stunt Show. Admission is on a first come, first serve basis until venue reaches full capacity. Badge holders will be seated before single ticket holders.”

ActionFest 2012 will be held April 12-15 at Carolina Cinemas. None of the films have been announced yet. The fabulous Gina (Haywire, American Gladiator) Carano will be receiving an award for Best Female Action Star.

The Thursday Horror Picture Show continues going strong in the Carolina Cinemas lounge. It is FREE and the main feature starts at 8 with a serial starting at 730. This week starts episode 1 of The Lost City (1935). Arrive early for good seating but not too early as I’m particular about where I sit.

2/16 – Mr. Vampire (1985) – I have never even heard of this film by Ricku Lau but judging from the year and that it is from Hong Kong, my guess is that it will be a mix of martial arts, slapstick, and general weirdness.

2/23 – The Invisible Man Returns (1940) – Definitely not one of his best films but I’m always down for watching Vincent Price (or in this case listening to him).

3/1 – Dracula’s Daughter (1936)

3/8 – The Last Circus (2011)

3/15 – Bride of Chucky (1998)

3/22 – Q, The Winged Serpent (1982)

3/29 – The Cat and the Canary (1927)

The Asheville Film Society shows FREE films every Tuesday night in the Carolina Cinemas lounge.

2/21 – The Seventh Seal (1957)

2/28 – The Docks of New York (1928)

3/6 – Hair (1979)

3/13 – The Good Fairy (1935)

3/20 – The Boys in the Band (1970)

3/27 – Charlie Chan at the Race Track (1936)

The Asheville Film Society is also putting on a showing of Academy Award nominee Bullhead on 2/22 at 730. This showing is FREE for members and membership is only $10 for a year. Membership gets you FREE popcorn refills at Carolina Cinemas, special showings like this one and a dollar off ticket prices at Carolina Cinemas.