Following Christopher Nolan’s announced West Coast appearance at a special Q&A for Following, his first film, filmmaker Steven Soderbergh will submit to similar navel-gazing at a special benefit screening of his already very inward-looking 1997 Slamdance entry, Schizopolis. The event will take place in New York City at the IFC Center on Tuesday, September 16 at 8 p.m. Tickets will be $20, and are available through IFC’s web site, or by clicking here. Following the screening there will be a Q&A with Soderbergh moderated by author Anthony Kaufman, and a hosted reception for ticket holders at The Post Factory.
Hounddog first attracted acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007, as the movie in which a 12-year-old Dakota Fanning is raped. Nearly 20 months later, it’s finally seeing a theatrical release, with plenty of evidence as to the cause of its lengthy delay.
An amorphous blob of clichéd Southern gothic, where thunderstorms rumble portentously and there’s seemingly only one or two pairs of shoes in the entire town, Hounddog is a pretentious, mildly terrible period piece drama of random, falsely weighted dramatic signifiers and vaguely defined personal triumph — the type of movie where air-quote catharsis is achieved by someone screaming, “Leave me alone, I hate you!” several times at another person before finally collapsing into their arms.
Written and directed by Deborah Kampmeier — who previously mined some of the same loosely related thematic territory with Virgin, about a pregnant teenager who has no memory of ever having sex, and is thus convinced she’s carrying the son of God — Hounddog unfolds in rural Alabama in the 1950s. Young Lewellen (Fanning) lives with her stern, religious grandmother, Grammie (Piper Laurie, spinning a warmed-over variation of the same stiflingly overhearing nut-job that she delivered 30 years ago in Carrie), just up the hill from her no-account father (David Morse), a heavy drinker prone to disappearing for stretches of a couple days at a time and bringing home strange women, like one played by Robin Wright Penn.
Lewellen loves Elvis (not Schmelvis), and when she finds out he’s scheduled to make a stop in her small town, she makes plans to try to get a ticket to attend, along with her friend Buddy (Cody Hanford). After the aforementioned rape, by an older boy dangling the promise of an Elvis ticket, nearby neighbor Charles (Afemo Omilami, suffering the screen caricature of the “mystical Negro”) tries to help Lewellen get her spirit back by teaching her to tap into the blues. There are also a few obligatory third act revelations regarding a tangled family lineage, but they hold much more shrug than pop.
Hounddog is rather gorgeously shot (cinematographers Ed Lachman and Jim Denault share credit), but the film’s mossy beauty soon wears thin — done in by characters that are defined broadly, by race, socioeconomic class, terrible wig, or some combination thereof. For the full review, from H Magazine, click here. (Empire Film Group, R, 98 minutes)
I’ve previously touched upon the predominance of mixed-ethnic relationships in this summer’s The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, and in Mirrors, Paula Patton and Kiefer Sutherland play a married couple, with nary a word about their relationship.
This goes beyond any sort of stunt casting, obviously, and it’s no lazy, shrugging toss-off, either, since the pairing then necessitates the casting of two two mixed-race kids, shared by the actors’ characters. I don’t know if this can be called a bonafide trend, really, but there’s something interesting in it — especially in a genre picture like Mirrors, which conceivably could face commercial prospect blow-back from the uncultured slice of the horror base. It’s not like that’s a multi-million dollar difference in gross or anything, but you can bet it flipped a switch or two at the executive level, because these are the types of things that get discussed when studio movies are green-lit. Regardless, the winds they are a-changin’, that’s for sure; younger generations both see and care (which is to say, less) about race in radically different ways than their parents. Heck, this helps explain a large part of Barack Obama‘s appeal to young voters, ages 18 to 30.
A stand-up compendium, The Best of Comedy Central Presents 2 groups together feature specials from eight comedians — most from the past several years, and each running about 20 minutes apiece. The end result is a nice buffet spread/sampler pack, something to allow a nice cross-section without forcing the consumer to go all-in on a single performer’s catalogue.
The roster here, listed alphabetically, includes Dave Attell, Mike Birbiglia, Frank Caliendo, Zach Galifianakis, Stephen Lynch, Patton Oswalt, Nick Swardson and Daniel Tosh. Attell’s set is I believe the oldest, dating from the late 1990s, or early 2000; he’s funny (introducing himself by saying, “I have an Andre Agassi-with-a-drinking-problem kind of look”), but it’s before he really found his stride. He talks some about mock-sexual bonding with his dog, but the funniest bit from him is when he talks about how summer weather is not the right fit for fat guys.
Caliendo, of course, currently in heavy commercial rotation sending up everyone from William Shatner and John Madden to George Bush, trots out plenty of impressions, and Lynch breaks out the guitar for some silly ditties. Swardson, performing in front of a picture of himself at six years of age, jokes about teeth whitening and wanting zoo animals in his one-bedroom apartment. His funniest bit, though — about the outdated pictorial representation of bombs on airport security signs — draws mostly uneasy and indifferent reactions from the live crowd.
The very funny Oswalt’s show isn’t among his best, necessarily. He talks about watching old movies in L.A. and losing both love and hate in his “old” age (he recently turned 30 before this set), and there’s an extended riff about a pot-fueled trip to Amsterdam. The biggest shocker of the disc, though, may be Tosh, with whom I wasn’t too terribly familiar prior to settling down with this DVD. Exuding a zonky energy that turns familiar stage riffs (the difficulties of unhooking a woman’s bra) into screwy high-wire acts, Tosh has a rapid-fire imagination that crams jokes of accompaniment all around his main anecdotal bits. His best bits involve a laboriously set-up joke about collecting change in cargo pants and then paying off a homeless guy in lottery-winner fashion, and befriending seventh graders to boost one’s self-esteem.
The Best of Comedy Central Presents 2 comes presented in 1.33:1 full screen. Trailers for the first season of Kenny Vs. Spenny and South Park‘s eleventh season are amongst the preview gallery that comprise the only bonus supplemental features on the disc. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. B (Concert) D+ (Disc)
Are paper dolls your thing, for some reason? Then by all means get collectible versions of both Barack Obama and John McCain, via Dover Publications’ site. The resemblances are a bit off, but McCain’s does have the stiff-arm thing going on. Looking at these, I’d love to see a film done with paper dolls, in the mold of Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s Team America: World Police. Well… a short film, maybe… more along the lines of Todd Haynes’ Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, I guess.
There’s no Bono, alas, but the new concert DVD Absolutely Irish brings together the brightest stars of traditional Irish music for a once in-a-lifetime concert that will leave folk music fans appreciatively awed by its virtuoso performances.
Filmed live at the intimate Irish Arts Center in New York City’s famed Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, this disc finds Irish music impresario Mick Moloney presenting three generations of brilliant musicians as they display their mastery on much-beloved jigs, reels and airs, then rock the hall with contemporary takes on favorite traditional tunes. Clearly shot and crisply captured, Absolutely Irish includes
performances by whistle player Joanie Madden; fiddlers Liz Carroll,
Eileen Ivers and Athena Tergis; flute and banjo player Seamus Egan;
guitarist John Doyle; singers Karan Casey, Robbie O’Connell and Susan
McKeown; concertina player Tim Collins;
accordionist Billy McComiskey; dancers Niall O’Leary and Darrah
Carr; and piper Jerry O’Sullivan. There are also special guest appearances by two living legends — 80-year-old flute player Mike Rafferty and 85-year-old Irish dancer Jo McNamara — and a heart-tugging rendition of “Leaving Liverpool” performed by the entire ensemble. Absolutely Irish belies the sometimes misguided notion that folk music is an utterly American tradition, and showcases some of the best talent on the Irish music scene today.
Housed in a regular Amray plastic case, Absolutely Irish runs around 70 minutes, and is presented in anamorphic widescreen, enhanced for 16×9 televisions. The DVD also includes bonus footage of eight additional performances taped at the same venue. A bit of commentary or interview footage would have been a nice inclusion as well — just to get a chance to better know some of these personalities — but for those already heartily interested in the trad-Irish music scene, this is a nice value. To order any DVD or VHS release from WGBH Boston Video, including Absolutely Irish, call (800) 949-8670 or click here to visit their web site. B- (Movie) B- (Disc)
Barbet Schroeder’s 1976 film Maitresse, about a burglar (Gérard
Depardieu) who falls for a dominatrix (Bulle Ogier) when he breaks into
her apartment, kicks off a special “Fetish Film Series” when it screens at the Egyptian Theatre at the American Cinematheque on Friday, September 12 at 7:30 p.m.
The once-monthly series will take place at the Egyptian’s Spielberg Theatre, and will be hosted by Rick
Castro of Antebellum Gallery. All screenings will have fetish as the main theme and subject matter, and each film will be followed by an
informal discussion and debate with the audience. Slated for October is Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1975 film Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom. The historic Egyptian Theatre is located at
Tickets for this and all events at the Egyptian are available through Fandango, but for 24-hour recorded information on screenings,
directions and other matters, phone (323) 466-FILM, or visit the Cinematheque’s eponymous
Acclaimed rock ‘n’ rollers The Smashing Pumpkins, who’ve sold over 30 million albums, is coming to Activision’s Guitar Hero World Tour in a groundbreaking way, as the band will debut their new single “G.L.O.W.” exclusively in the game. This marks the first time a band has recorded a new song exclusively for the franchise that will then be released afterward, giving Guitar Hero fans exclusive access to Smashing Pumpkins music before anyone else. The new track, bundled with two of the group’s other hits, “1979” and “The Everlasting Gaze,” will be available after launch of the game as a three-song downloaded content pack. For more information, click here.
Republicans have fired up the “One of us!” tom-toms over John McCain‘s selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for the vice presidential slot on his ticket, and now they’re saying that having an
unmarried teenage daughter who is pregnant, a state ethics investigation stemming from a nasty child custody
battle involving a former family member, and blue-collar husband who racked up a DUI citation as a 22-year-old may all help solidify the national newcomer’s reputation as a regular American, according to this Politico piece by Charles Mahtesian.
“The media doesn’t understand life membership in the NRA; they don’t understand getting up at 3 a.m. to hunt a moose; they don’t understand eating a mooseburger; they don’t understand being married to a guy who likes to snowmobile for fun. I am not surprised that they don’t get it. But Americans get it,” says Florida Rep. Adam Putnam, who surely knows of 3 a.m. moose hunting. “A mooseburger means she is like one of us. She is not some jackass who’s ‘gone Washington.'”
The original Phantasm, released in 1979, broke new ground in horror filmmaking, instantly marking Libyan-born writer-director Don Coscarelli as one of his generation’s masters of the genre. After two sequels filled with zombies, dwarves and slicing spheres, this wild, gory desert-set flick delivers perhaps the most bizarre installment of Phantasm yet.
For years, the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) has waged a gruesome war against humanity, slowly populating the world with his undead legions. To stop the horrifying onslaught, two determined heroes, Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) and Reggie (Reggie Bannister) hurtle themselves through a gateway in the time/space continuum to unearth a vital clue that may just put an end to the horror. Along with Jody (Bill Thornbury), Mike and Reggie come to understand the terrifying birthright of the Tall Man, as well as the origins of the infamous and lethal sphere. As the Tall Man prepares his final assault with his dark army, the future of the human race hangs in the balance.
“Phans” of this series waited years for this installment, making their wishes known at horror conventions all over the world. And Anchor Bay Entertainment, the leader in cult and classic horror DVDs, does the series proud with its release of the uncut
version of Phantasm IV: Oblivion — reinstating scenes that were deleted prior to its
original 1998 North American theatrical release — as part of its prestigious “Anchor Bay
Collection” banner. Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with an English language Dolby digital 5.1 audio track, and boasting both a brand new video transfer and fiery new cover art, the DVD also features
a number of supplemental extras that vastly boost its value when compared to the bare-bones 2001 DVD version. The crown jewel of the set is undeniably a newly recorded
audio commentary track with writer-director Coscarelli, Reggie Bannister and the Tall Man himself, Scrimm; in it, Coscarelli talks some about the genesis of the series and the fact that Roger Avary penned a concluding chapter for the Phantasm series that was prohibitively expensive, leading him to pen this as an alternate, and not mutually exclusive wrap-up. A short retrospective featurette is also provided, built around some never-before-seen production footage. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C+ (Movie) B- (Disc)