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HOME VIDEO HERALD: STRAW DOGS (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 14, 2011 (San Diego) – To me, the most important part of the film is the first few minutes. At least 90 times out of 100 it’s during that time when I can tell if a movie will be good or bad.

 

I knew what I was in for once the ominous horns from Jerry Fielding’s score trumpeted at the start of Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. The sound of those horns created a cloud of uneasiness that hung over me long after the opening credits.  Straw Dogs is a powerful movie that never lets up until the last shot.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "SISTER" ACT

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 9, 2011 (San Diego) – Mozart’s Sister is the year’s leading candidate for the year’s dullest film. During the two hour running time I counted only three instances of mental stimulation and they were as brief as they could get. This is one of those movies in which there is absolutely nothing to think about.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: DISEASE THE DAY

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 9, 2011 (San Diego) – Every now and then a movie comes along that reminds us of the danger that lurks on the surfaces we touch and the air we breathe. I’m talking about one of cinema’s most potent types of villains: the deadly virus. Filmmakers as diverse as Elia Kazan (Panic in the Streets), Robert Wise (The Andromeda Strain), Wolfgang Petersen (Outbreak), and Danny Boyle (28 Days Later) have touched on it.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "BELLFLOWER" POWER

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 2, 2011 (San Diego) – Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali. David Lynch’s Eraserhead. Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. Kevin Smith’s Clerks. What does Evan Glodell’s Bellflower have in common with all these films? They are all great movies shot on shoestring budgets.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: THE "INVISIBLE" TOUCH

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 25, 2011 (San Diego) – In my nearly two years as a film critic I’ve learned a lot about the three current Landmark Theatres in San Diego. There’s the Landmark Hillcrest and the Landmark La Jolla Village. The third is San Diego’s only remaining continuously operating single-screen movie theater, the Ken Cinema in Kensington. I soon began to draw a distinction between films shown at the former two and the latter.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: RIO

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 24, 2011 (San Diego) – The story is formulaic. The voice acting is rarely expressive. The musical numbers are largely forgettable except for one that will play on a loop in your head for a few days after you watch it. But nevermind. I sat in amazement while watching the Blu-Ray of Rio, not wanting to blink lest I miss a single frame of the animation.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: HEARTS OF THE WEST

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 24, 2011 (San Diego) – Hearts of the West, available from the Warner Archive Collection, is a film about westerns that was released at an inopportune time. The year was 1975, a time in which the western genre was falling out of favor with audiences and studios alike. Over the three-plus decades since, there have been some notable exceptions, such as Unforgiven. But the genre has been nowhere near as popular as it was from the 1930s to the 1960s.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: THE WOMAN ON THE BEACH

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 24, 2011 (San Diego) – The first five minutes of The Woman on the Beach are ominous, spellbinding and foreboding. Hanns Eisler’s booming and menacing score accompany the opening credits. The frame is backdropped with shots of the alluring beach and its forceful, foamy, and frothy tide. It’s a simple sequence of shots, but they’re chilling.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: IN THE "DARK"

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 26, 2011 (San Diego) – The trouble with Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark isn’t so much that it’s not scary but that it’s boring. It ranks right up there with the original Amityville Horror (1979) as one of the dullest haunted house movies I’ve seen.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "ONE DAY" AT A TIME

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 19, 2011 (San Diego) – One Day is the best example in recent memory of what happens when bad endings happen to good films. This movie is (or was, before the ending) by no means great, nor is it innocuous, but a good one. Let me put it this way: Many of the worst films I’ve seen have had endings that were less contrived, idiotic, and less stupid than the one in this movie.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: THE DOUBLE MAN

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 17, 2011 (San Diego) – As a kid I remember watching The Parent Trap (1961). That was the Disney movie that starred Hayley Mills as two separated-at-birth twins. It was the film that probably didn’t invent it, but it certainly perfected the split screen technique that enabled the same actor to appear as separate characters in the same scene.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: WHISTLEBLOWIN' IN THE WIND

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 15, 2011 (San Diego) – The subject of sex trafficking is a serious one. Here in San Diego, teenage girls are taken by gangs and forced to become sex slaves. This subject deserves a better exploration and treatment than that seen in The Whistleblower, a film that is nothing more than 35-millimeter TV.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: GRAND "TREE"

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 11, 2011 (San Diego) – It can get really eerie when a movie parallels your life. The Tree does so for me, striking a powerful emotional cord.

 

When I lost my mother last November, the following month was the most grueling period of my life. I was angry, sad, and lost. On Christmas night I looked up in tears and asked my mother, “How can I live my life if you’re not in it?” I fell asleep.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: DARK OF THE SUN

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 9, 2011 (San Diego) – Dark of the Sun (1968) was one of the first films to cash in on The Dirty Dozen’s success. Both films are set in war-torn countries, both are about do-or-die missions, and both feature football great Jim Brown (his second film after his retirement). The similarities end there. Judging it on its own terms, Dark of the Sun is uneven but when it’s good it makes you wish the rest of the movie were just as brutal and action-packed. When it drags, it really suffers.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: GOING APE

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 5, 2011 (San Diego) – The original Planet of the Apes was a thoughtful, intelligent commentary on the human race. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an ambitious but mostly mindless prequel that is yet another entry in the “changing things that aren’t meant to be changed” genre.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: CEDAR RAPIDS

 

By Brian Lafferty

July 21, 2011 (San Diego) – Cedar Rapids is the type of comedy I would expect from Fox Searchlight Pictures, the subsidiary of 20th Century Fox that specializes in independent film. If it was 20th Century Fox distributing the movie (which stars Ed Helms of The Office and The Hangover as well as John C. Reilly) we’d have a raunchy, broadly-humored comedy.

HOME VIDEO HERALD: SUCKER PUNCH

By Brian Lafferty

 

July 15, 2011 (San Diego) – Sucker Punch is what happens when you give Zack Snyder carte blanche to do whatever he wants. 300 was my first exposure to Snyder. It wasn’t a masterpiece, or even a great movie, but if you were looking for a good sword and sandal epic with lots of slicing, dicing, and blood, then you couldn’t miss.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: TWO FOR THE ROAD

By Brian Lafferty

 

July 9, 2011 (San Diego) – The Trip is a Reader’s Digest condensed version of the hit British TV sitcom of the same name. Normally sitcoms and cinema go as well together as peanut butter and mayonnaise. Director Michael Winterbottom reverses this trend with a film that makes a smooth transition from the small screen to the big screen.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: A SOLEMN AFTERNOON

By Brian Lafferty

 

June 24, 2011 (San Diego) – 3 Backyards tackles one of my favorite movie subjects: A seemingly quaint, picturesque small town that masks a dark undercurrent. This foreboding, unsettling subtext is displayed in the opening title sequence, which is set against an ironic canvas of woods, houses, cats, and hummingbirds,

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: SEXUAL REELING

By Brian Lafferty

 

June 20, 2011 (San Diego) – If Henry Jaglom made a movie about a young man’s sexual discoveries the result might have been something like Twelve Thirty. Jaglom didn’t direct it, but it feels like a Jaglom film. It’s talky, self-indulgent, shot with a handheld camera, and is a supposed deep character study. All that's missing are David Proval, Zack Norman, and a liberal use of the zoom lens.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: STARK RAVING NOMAD

By Brian Lafferty

 

June 18, 2011 (San Diego) – After watching Korkoro I fondly recalled the stories of my Uncle John and “the Gypsies.” When my sisters were little, he would warn them about the Gypsies and how they wouldn’t hesitate to snatch them while they slept. If you left root beer outside, maybe my sisters would have a fighting chance.

 

If only Korkoro was as interesting as these stories.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: MEDITATION OF LIFE

By Brian Lafferty

 

June 10, 2011 (San Diego) – The Tree of Life isn’t merely a movie. To call it an experience would be putting it mildly. It’s films like this that make me say, “This is why I go to the movies.” Only one other movie elicited such a response from me since I’ve been a film critic and it happened to be the best film of 2010: Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: CLASS ACTION

By Brian Lafferty

 

June 5, 2011 (San Diego) – Most comic book movies that are the first in a franchise feel like a feature-length first act. I had this feeling with X-Men and Spider-Man. They’re good movies but they functioned more like set-ups for X2 and Spider-Man 2, which also delivered the goods better.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: THE SPIRIT IS FULFILLING

By Brian Lafferty

 

June 3, 2011 (San Diego) – Ever since my mother died there have been times when I've imagined my mother’s spirit being around me. I fantasize being able to speak to her, telling her how I feel, asking her what it’s like on the other side.

 

THIS WEEK ON DISC: "I AM NUMBER FOUR" AND "GNOMEO & JULIET"

By Brian Lafferty

 

June 1, 2011, (San Diego) – For over a year and a half I’ve been reviewing theatrical releases. Last month I introduced the Netflix Streaming Pick of the Week, a column that spotlights worthy cinema available on Netflix Watch Instantly.

 

NETFLIX STREAMING PICK OF THE WEEK: "THE RED BALLOON" IS A THIRTY-FOUR MINUTE CINEMATIC TREASURE

By Brian Lafferty

 

May 23, 2011 (San Diego) – Today’s Netflix Streaming Pick of the Week is inspired by this year’s Cannes Film Festival, which wrapped up yesterday. The film world has been abuzz with Cannes fever including, but not limited to, Lars Von Trier’s controversial Hitler remarks and the Palme d’Or going to Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "HENRY'S CRIME" IS AMBITIOUS BUT LITTLE WORTH THE TIME

By Brian Lafferty

 

May 20, 2011 (San Diego) – There are terrible bad movies and there are good bad movies. The worst bad movies are devoid of any ambition. Those tend to be the most offensive. With good bad movies, I at least get the sense that the filmmakers tried to make a good movie, even if they didn’t succeed.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: TIREPOWER - FREEWHEELING TALE OF KILLER TIRE LOADED WITH DARK HUMOR

By Brian Lafferty

 

May 21, 2011 (San Diego) – Rubber is a portmanteau of the films of Luis Buñuel, David Cronenberg’s Scanners, and the road movie. It requires not only the largest suspension of disbelief but it necessitates putting any attempt at logic back into the furthest reaches of your mind. It is an utterly ridiculous movie but I enjoyed it for exactly that reason.

 

NETFLIX STREAMING PICK OF THE WEEK: OVER THIRTY YEARS LATER, "SUPERMAN" STILL A MOVIE OF STEEL

By Brian Lafferty

 

May 9, 2011 (San Diego) – In my review of Thor, I wrote that X-Men (2000) established the Marvel comic book movie formula commonplace in the last decade. It couldn’t have done it without this week’s Netflix Streaming Pick of the Week. That movie is Superman (1978), the prototype for the modern superhero movie.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "THOR" THUNDERS ITS WAY TO THEATERS

By Brian Lafferty

 

May 6, 2011 (San Diego) – The good news: Thor delivers the goods you’d expect from a Marvel comic book movie. The not-really-bad-but-could-be-better news: Thor delivers the goods you’d expect from a Marvel comic book movie.

 

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