Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Scare Power of the "Paranormal"

A scene from the hit film "Pranormal Activity". (Paramount Pictures)

While The Popcorn Reel will be returning in full force very soon with a ton of updates -- my computer crashed hard two weeks ago and I've had to do some extensive recovery -- I will be posting stories here that I'm currently writing for The Examiner newspaper group. I recently became the San Francisco Indie Movie Examiner writer, as well as a member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.

Halloween is coming, and earlier this week I wrote a story about the cinematic phenomenon that is "Paranormal Activity". Take a look.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Breaking The Law

Happy Friday!

Are you a law-abiding citizen?

Here's my review of F. Gary Gray's new film, which opened today in the U.S. and Canada:


Friday, July 31, 2009

For The Author Julie Powell, It's Lights! Camera! Cooking!

A delightful conversation with Julie Powell, author of "Julie & Julia", was had earlier this week. Julie is a passionate cook whose life was in freefall just seven years ago. Julia Child, the iconic cooking legend and author helped inspire Ms. Powell and soon the Austin, Texas-born Ms. Powell started a blog and cooked more than 500 of Ms. Child's recipes in one year. The film "Julie & Julia" which is based on Ms. Powell and Ms. Child's separate books, opens in the U.S. and Canada on August 7. Here's the feature story. Enjoy. And eat!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Julie & Julia"

Look out for "Julie & Julia" -- I saw it last night. The film, based on two true stories, is about cooking master Julia Child and cooking aspirant-turned-famous cook Julie Powell, and is directed by Nora Ephron. Meryl Streep and Amy Adams (both of "Doubt") star in Ms. Ephron's film. "Julie & Julia" opens on August 7 in the U.S. and Canada.

"Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince"

Pottermaniacs: This "Harry" Gets Better With Age. David Yates gets this edition right, with a few imperfections. http://www.popcornreel.com/htm/hpotter09rev.htm

Back On The Popcorn Trail

It's been a while - have neglected The Reel more than I'd like. I've been very busy and have also fallen under the spell of Twitter -- I can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/popcornreel. I will also be blogging here regularly.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

When Obsession Is Beyond Obsession

I don't have the words to explain. But something has to be done. Just read on, please.

Monday, March 30, 2009

"Spinning" Into Coincidence?

Sarah Jessica Parker as Dean Sarah Daniels in the new film "Spinning Into Butter".
(Photo: Screen Media Films)

Last Wednesday (March 25) was one of coincidences. I had posted an early review of the film "Spinning Into Butter" which depicts racial tension and racism on a college campus in Vermont. Sarah Jessica Parker (above) stars and does a good job in the role of Dean Sarah Daniels. Strangely enough, I had not realized (I found out later) that March 25 was Ms. Parker's 44th birthday. Also on that same day, the renowned and revered black historian John Hope Franklin died, aged 94. He had experienced racism and racial tension first hand and wrote books about it and many other topics. What did these three events have to do with each other? Not much perhaps, but they are related by topic, timing and circumstance.

A very interesting Wednesday indeed.

In Hollywood Films Today, Where Are The Women Of Howard Hawks' Day?

Howard Hawks and his star Lauren Bacall, who made her debut in
Mr. Hawks' "To Have And Have Not", opposite Humphrey Bogart.
Miss Bacall was just 19 at the time, and she told ol' Bogey where to
get off. (Photo: UCLA Film Archives)

The recent spate of Hollywood girl-power love stories and romances ("Bride Wars", etc.) showing women as inept, self-pitying, spoiled rotten brats crescendoed last month with "He's Just Not That Into You", which has become a moderate hit since its release a week prior to Valentine's Day in the U.S. and Canada. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times pointed out the stupefying depths of degradation and dumbing down of women in these Hollywood comedies, longing for the days of tougher women like "Thelma & Louise".

Which brought me to thinking: what about the women of American filmmaker Howard Hawks' films from the 1930s through the 1950s in particular? What has happened to that kind of women in today's Hollywood film? Read on . . .

"Eyes Wide Shut" Has Its Tenth Anniversary This July

Tom Cruise as Bill Harford in Stanley Kubrick's final film, "Eyes
Wide Shut", which has its tenth anniversary of release on July 16.
(Photo: Warner Brothers)

A lot of the public detested it, convinced that they were duped by the two-minute sexy trailer that debuted earlier that year (March 1999, to be precise). They said that "Eyes Wide Shut" was boring, too long, slow-paced and pretentious. American filmmaker Stanley Kubrick directed what would be his last film over a two-plus-year period and in March ten years ago died of a heart attack in his sleep. "Eyes Wide Shut" opened in North America on July 16, 1999 to mixed but mostly positive reviews. The film starred then-actual spouses Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as a married couple whose real or imagined flirtations with infidelity lead Mr. Cruise's character on a nighttime odyssey.

The film has its 10 year anniversary of theatrical release in July. Colorful, foreboding, disturbing and hauting, "Eyes" is a riveting, penetrating powerhouse.

"Heat" Still Burns Cool Blue

Robert De Niro as Neil McCauley, in a contemplative stance, bathed
in deep blue, one image that defines Michael Mann's "Heat". (Screen
shot: Warner Bros/Omar P.L. Moore)

While Michael Mann's "Public Enemies", starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, doesn't open for more than three months in the U.S. and Canada, it's worth taking a look back at a classic film from Mr. Mann. "Heat" (1995) pitted Al Pacino and Robert De Niro on opposite sides of the law, cop chasing criminal in a test of relentless will. I predict that "Heat" will show up on the top 100 films of all time on the American Film Institute list. Here's a reminder of just how good this film still is.

Barry Jenkins Muses On "Melancholy"

Barry Jenkins, writer, director, producer (Photo: Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com. Copyright 2009.)
Earlier this month, San Francisco filmmaker Barry Jenkins was in that very city talking about his feature film directing debut "Medicine For Melancholy", which played earlier this year in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle and Los Angeles. The film, starring Los Angeles actors Wyatt Cenac and Tracey Heggins, is now enjoying an extended theatrical run in San Francisco, where it is set. Two on a one-night stand slowly wake up the next morning and retrace (or enhance) their steps in San Francisco, learning a lot about themselves and the city in the process.

Mr. Jenkins had several revealing things to say about his film and the politics and demographics of the city he now calls home. You can take a look here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Steven Soderbergh Talks About "Che"

(Photo by Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com. Copyright 2009.)
Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh recently talked to me about his latest film "Che". Definitely a wonderfully insightful and revealing conversation, which is chronicled in today's Sunday Popcorn Profile on this blog's companion website, PopcornReel.com.

The feature story is also posted here.

Brief audio excerpts of the conversation will be posted within the next day or two, so stay tuned.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Today's Oscar Nominations, Digested

So I've had an hour or two to digest this morning's Oscar nominations for the films of 2008.

Generally speaking, no real surprises: The best film of 2008, "Slumdog Millionaire", did very well with ten nominations, but the sheer number of bouquets tossed at "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button" was indeed curious. Thirteen Oscar nominations. Wow. Only "Titanic" and "Ben Hur", if I'm not mistaken, received the same or more, although there are other nominated films that have escaped my mind.

Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei (both for "The Wrestler") and Viola Davis ("Doubt") were all expected, as was Kate Winslet, although she was nominated in the lead role for "The Reader", which was always a lead role (The HFPA got that one wrong, I'm afraid) -- and not "Revolutionary Road", which for my money was a slightly better performance by the newest bridesmaid of Oscartown. As well as those mentioned in this paragrpah I was particularly pleased that Richard Jenkins was recognized for "The Visitor", which should have earned more nominations. Mr. Jenkins embodied the character of Walter Vale so well. "Milk" did well -- best picture, best director, best original screenplay, best actor (Sean Penn), best supporting actor (Josh Brolin), but James Franco should have joined them.

I love Robert Downey Jr.'s work and while I am happy for him I had mixed (at best) feelings about the Academy saluting his work in "Tropic Thunder", although he did it very well, don't get me wrong, deftly tiptoeing into and out of the racist stereotypical waters of blackface. The cavalier nature of his role as "Iron Man" was far better.

With its eight nominations "The Dark Knight", to be re-released in IMAX and 35mm in North America tomorrow, was snubbed out of best picture and best director nominations. How on earth does a film gain nominations for best cinematography, editing, art direction, sound editing, sound mixing, make up, visual effects and not receive nominations for best picture and best director? It simply doesn't make sense. Ah well. Politics, politics for sure. There always is. At least Heath Ledger was nominated for his towering pillar of menace, The Joker. Mr. Ledger will no doubt be awarded the Oscar posthumously exactly one month from today.

Clint Eastwood came up relatively empty this morning ("Gran Torino") but "Changeling" did garner three nominations, including one for Angelina Jolie. The one surprise was "Frost/Nixon", with best picture and best director nods. The film, which had an excellent performance from Frank Langella (as usual for him) was good, but not that good.

Full PopcornReel.com 81st Annual Academy Award nominations report here

Pre-nomination announcement advice for the Academy, who didn't really need it today

The Popcorn Reel Ten Best Films of 2008

Popcorn Reel YouTube Channel

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Blog Reel Is Back In Business!

New Year, New Look, New Address.

The Blog Reel is back!

You can check out The Popcorn Reel website which has the film reviews, interviews, news, feature stories you're interested in.

The Popcorn Reel -- http://www.popcornreel.com

You can take a look at The Popcorn Reel Channel on YouTube -- http://www.youtube.com/PopcornReel -- look at the movie reviews there and subscribe

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