Sunday, October 14, 2012

Philadelphia Film Festival Begins Thursday!


The 21st Philadelphia Film Festival begins this Thursday 10/18 and runs through Sunday 10/28.  You can find the complete list of films here!  And you can still buy all access badges and individual tickets at very reasonable prices.  Or better yet, become a member of the Philadelphia Film Society for as little as $75 a year ($25 if you're a student) and get passes and tickets to the festival plus advance screenings year round.

I've previously highlighted the high profile films in this year's program, but here some others I'm personally excited about seeing:

"The Graveyard Shift" - my favorite category of horror/suspense/sci-fi/fantasy films:

John Dies at the End - a strange and comical sci-fi tale of beasts, drugs, and other dimension

The ABC's of Death - an anthology of short films about death

Antiviral - A sci-fi thriller from the son of filmmaker David Cronenberg

Thale - A Norwegian fantasy film about a strange woman hidden in the basement of a remote cabin


American Documentaries:

American Scream - a doc about suburbanites who create elaborate haunted houses for Halloween

Room 237 - a doc about the meanings underlying the Kubrick classic 'The Shining'

The Zen of Bennett - a doc about Tony Bennett


French films:

My Worst Nightmare -  a French romantic comedy starring Isabelle Huppert

In Another Country - Another French romantic comedy starring Isabelle Huppert

Step Up to the Plate - a documentary about a father passing his restaurant down to his son

Sister - A drama set at a Swiss ski resort


Other Foreign Films:

The Thieves - A South Korean diamond heist action comedy adventure

Reality - An Italian whimsical fairy tale about a man obsessed with becoming a reality TV star.

Caesar Must Die - an Italian doc about real life prison inmates rehearsing for a performance of Julius Caesar


Can't wait!  See you at the festival!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 10/12/12


Check out my appearance from this morning where I offered my thoughts on 'Argo', 'Seven Psychopaths', 'Sinister', and 'Here Comes the Boom'. FOX 35 News Orlando

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Newest releases are in green)

The Master                         Grade: A

Looper                                 Grade: A

Sleepwalk with Me            Grade: A

Won't Back Down              Grade: A

Perks of Being a Wallflower    Grade: A

End of Watch                     Grade: A

Seven Psychopaths            Grade: A

Argo                                    Grade: A-

The Oranges                       Grade: A-

Arbitrage                             Grade: A-

Butter                               Grade: B+

Sinister                             Grade: B

Frankenweenie                Grade: B

Pitch Perfect                    Grade: B

Trouble With the Curve     Grade: B-

Searching for Sugar Man         Grade: C+

The Possession                      Grade: C

Here Comes the Boom         Grade: C-

Dredd 3D                               Grade: C-

Argo


It's great to see that that kid from the late 90's once thought of as Matt Damon's sidekick and star of guilty pleasures like 'Armageddon' has matured into quite the impressive actor and filmmaker.  Right out of the gate, his directorial debut in 2007, 'Gone Baby Gone', Garner-ed a lot of critical praise but didn't get the full attention it deserved.  (I admit I didn't fully appreciate it until my second viewing.)  Three years later, 'The Town' was a bigger hit with audiences and critics alike, but didn't get the Oscar nomination some were expecting.  But I think this is the year Ben Affleck finally gets nominated for Best Director, and 'Argo' will undoubtedly get nominated for Best Picture.

Based on the true story of six American diplomats trapped in Iran in 1979, Affleck plays the CIA operative determined to get them out any way he can ... Hollywood-style.  With stars like Affleck, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, and Zeljko Ivanek (in his fourth major film in the last two months), you expect nothing less than great performances, and that's exactly what you get here.  Affleck has proven he knows filmmaking and clearly got what he wanted.  It's a film for adults in all its 70's glory, similar to last year's 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' (but much less confusing).  Frankly, I'm surprised it took this long for Hollywood to tell this particular story.  It's fascinating, albeit a tad bit anti-climactic.

Grade: A

Seven Psychopaths


The brothers McDonagh, Martin ('In Bruges') and John Michael ('The Guard'), have truly mastered the clever, original, violent, dark comedies.  I'm certainly a fan of that genre and if you've seen 'In Bruges' or 'The Guard', then you pretty much know what you're going to get from the offbeat 'Seven Psychopaths', written and directed by Martin McDonagh.  As expected, great performances are aplenty, particularly Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, and Christopher Walken (doing the best Walken impression I've seen in some time, but also looking so old he's more like the Walken' Dead.)  The storytelling is masterfully creative, and one psychopath is more of a crack-up than the next.  This one's sure to be a crowd pleaser for the 'True Romance', 'Pulp Fiction', 'Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead' fan club.  Count me as a member.

Grade: A

Sinister


Ethan Hawke stars in his first horror film, as a writer of true crime novels who moves his family into a house with a sordid history for inspiration for his next book.  And Hawke seems right at home in this setting.  You can expect all the standard elements from any decent haunted house flick, including plenty of scares, jumps, screeches, and creepy kids.  And while it's not a must see film, 'Sinister' is certainly a welcome treat in a year where horror films have been significantly sub-par (e.g. 'The Apparition', 'The Possession', 'The Devil Inside').  Call it 'The Ring' meets '8MM' meets 'Insidious'.  It certainly has franchise potential.

Grade: B

Here Comes the Boom


What are the three scariest words in movies today?  Happy Madison Productions.

Adam Sandler produced this painfully predictable film, starring regular collaborators Kevin James and Henry Winkler as teachers who need to raise money to save the music program at their school.  (Seriously?  I kid you not.)  So James resorts to earning money the old fashioned way ... Mixed Martial Arts competitions!  Salma Hayek co-stars as the object of James' affection.  (Seriously?  Are we supposed to buy this pairing?)

I can't believe I'm saying this but while watching this movie I was actually waxing nostalgic about last year's 'Warrior' which I originally dismissed as late night cable fare, but suddenly I'm thinking maybe I was too hard on it.  And OK, perhaps I'm being a tad harsh here as well.  I'll freely admit that the entire audience was laughing and cheering throughout.  So Sandler and co. may have a crowd pleaser on their hands.  If you like 'comfort food' films, this one may be exactly what your doctor ordered.  And truthfully, I didn't think it was horrendous.  (It was certainly better than 'The Zookeeper', for which I even created new rules for Sandler and James.)  It's simply a safe, non-offensive, paint-by-numbers waste of 105 minutes.  Boom.

Grade: C-

Friday, October 5, 2012

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 10/5/12


Check out my appearance from this morning where I offered my thoughts on 'Looper', 'Frankenweenie', and 'Won't Back Down'.

FOX 35 News Orlando

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Newest releases are in green)

The Master                         Grade: A

Hello I Must be Going        Grade: A

Looper                                 Grade: A

Sleepwalk with Me            Grade: A

Won't Back Down              Grade: A

Perks of Being a Wallflower    Grade: A

End of Watch                     Grade: A

The Oranges                       Grade: A-

Liberal Arts                         Grade: A-

Arbitrage                             Grade: A-

The Odd Life of Timothy Green       Grade: B+

Butter                               Grade: B+

The Bourne Legacy          Grade: B

Frankenweenie                Grade: B

The Words                      Grade: B

Lawless                             Grade: B

The Campaign                  Grade: B

Pitch Perfect                    Grade: B

Trouble With the Curve     Grade: B-

Searching for Sugar Man         Grade: C+

Beasts of the Southern Wild         Grade: C

The Possession                      Grade: C

Dredd 3D                               Grade: C-

Frankenweenie


As regular readers know, when it comes to animation I'm generally not a fan.  But my exceptions to that are Pixar films and the films of Tim Burton.  There's just something about Burton's movies, both live action and animation, that I find so enjoyable.  In some ways they're comfort food, because they all have his signature style and you pretty much know what you're gonna get.  But in other ways, they're all so original and fresh feeling.  'Frankenweenie' is a feature length version of Burton's short film from 1984, a family friendly comedic twist on the classic Frankenstein.  (Think 'Nightmare Before Christmas' meets 'Young Frankenstein').  And, of course it features the same stop motion animation we all love from 'Nightmare' and 'Corpse Bride'.  Bottom line:  If you like Burton's films then you'll definitely like 'Frankenweenie'.  It's clever, stylish, sweet, and short.  And it's alive.  It's Alive!  IT'S ALIVE!!

Grade: B

The Oranges


Two families, close friends and neighbors, in posh suburban South Orange, NJ, have their friendship tested when an inappropriate relationship develops among them.

I saw this film over a year ago at the Toronto Film Festival and I have no idea why it took so long to come out).  I'm testing my memory a bit, so I'll keep this one brief, but I can safely tell you this is one enjoyable dramedy with an impressive ensemble cast including Hugh Laurie, Oliver Platt, Catherine Keener, Allison Janney, Leighton Meester, and Adam Brody.  It deserves better than the quiet theatrical release with poor marketing it's getting.

Grade: A-

Butter


This is apparently the week that large ensemble comedies I saw over a year ago at the Toronto Film Festival are finally being released (with 'The Oranges' being another one.)  If you're in the mood for a butter carving competition filled with crazy contestants and a great ensemble cast, including Jennifer Garner, Ty Burrell, Olivia Wilde, Alicia Silverstone, and Hugh Jackman, then by all means check this one out.  But, unlike 'The Oranges', you can also watch 'Butter' at home on VOD if you prefer!

Grade: B+

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Philadelphia Film Festival



Reminder:  The 21st Philadelphia Film Festival is just 15 days away, running from Thursday 10/18 through Sunday 10/28.  You can still buy all access badges or individual tickets at very reasonable prices.  Or better yet, become a member of the Philadelphia Film Society for as little as $75 a year ($25 if you're a student) and get passes and tickets to the festival plus advance screenings year round.

Last year, audiences got to see critically acclaimed and award winning films in advance of their release dates including Academy Award Best Picture winner The Artist, The Descendants, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Melancholia, Shame, A Dangerous Method, Jeff Who Lives at Home, My Week with Marilyn, Anonymous, and Like Crazy.

Here are some highlights from this year's program that I'm personally looking forward to:
  • Silver Linings Playbook (starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert DeNiro)
  • Flight (starring Denzel Washington, John Goodman, and Don Cheadle)
  • Signs (from 2002, featuring a post screening Q&A with writer/director M. Night Shyamalan)
  • Cloud Atlas (starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry)
  • Hyde Park on Hudson (starring Bill Murray and Laura Linney)
  • Stand Up Guys (starring Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin, and isn't scheduled for release until next year).
  • Not Fade Away (starring James Gandalfini)
  • Quartet (Directed by Dustin Hoffman, and starring Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, and Billy Connolly, and isn't scheduled for release until next year.)
  • A Late Quartet (starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, and Christopher Walken)
  • The Sessions (starring John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, and William H. Macy)
  • Shadow Dancer (Starring Clive Owen and Gillian Anderson)
  • Shanghai (Starring John Cusack and Chow Yun Fat)
  • Wreck-It Ralph (Featuring the voices of John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch, and Sarah Silverman)
Or, if you prefer, take advantage of the opportunity to see films from around the world you might not otherwise come across.  You can find the complete list of films here!

See you at the festival!